Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Engaging local perspectives for improved conservation and climate change adaptation
by Knapp, Corrine Noel, Ph.D., University of Alaska Fairbanks, 2013, 231; 3607055
Abstract (Summary)

Climate change is a global process that will impact local places in heterogeneous and unpredictable manners. This dissertation considers whose knowledge and observations could contribute to conservation and climate adaptation planning, how perceptions influence social-ecological feedbacks, and how science could be more relevant to decision-makers and local residents. In Chapter 2, I report on interviews (n=36) conducted with ranchers and recreation-based business owners in Colorado to understand their self-perceptions of resilience and vulnerability. I find that ranchers perceive more exposure and sensitivity to climate change and they also demonstrate more adaptive capacity than recreation businesses. In Chapter 3, I convey results from interviews (n=83) completed with various long-term residents of the region surrounding Denali National Park and Preserve. I find that people who have more direct and ongoing experience with natural resources (subsistence users, bus drivers, business owners) have a greater number and more diverse observations of change than Park employees or scientists. In Chapter 4, I describe results from interviews (n=26) with community-defined Gunnison Sage-grouse experts. I find that formal and observational experts had very different explanations of the decline of Gunnison Sage-grouse and disagreed about potential conservation strategies. In Chapter 5, I describe multi-method surveys (41) conducted with ranchers in the Gunnison Basin to understand their perceptions of the potential listing of the Gunnison Sage-grouse under the Endangered Species Act, and their planned responses. I find that ranchers tend to have negative perceptions of the listing and that they plan to take actions, including sales of land and water and decreased participation in conservation efforts, which may result in harm to the Gunnison Sage-grouse. In Chapter 6, I review stakeholder-generated climate change needs assessments (63) to assess the suggestions made to make science more relevant to decision-making. Their suggestions include: interdisciplinary approaches, place-based focus, increased data-sharing and collaboration, and user-driven research. This dissertation demonstrates the importance of understanding perceptions for effective conservation and adaptation, identifies the existence of proactive adaptation strategies, highlights the value of local knowledge in specific situations, and reveals how failure to engage local people may lead to inequitable outcomes.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Chapin, F.S. Terry
Commitee: Carothers, Courtney L., Fresco, Nancy L., Kofinas, Gary P.
School: University of Alaska Fairbanks
Department: Biology & Wildlife
School Location: United States -- Alaska
Source: DAI-B 75/04(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Ecology, Climate Change, Sociology
Keywords: Adaptation, Conservation, Local knowledge, Resilience, Vulnerability
Publication Number: 3607055
ISBN: 978-1-303-64448-1
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