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Adapting conservation policy to the impacts of climate change : an integrated examination of ecological and social dimensions of change

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Title: Adapting conservation policy to the impacts of climate change : an integrated examination of ecological and social dimensions of change
Author: Hagerman, Shannon Marie
Degree Doctor of Philosophy - PhD
Program Resource Management and Environmental Studies
Copyright Date: 2009
Publicly Available in cIRcle 2009-05-11
Abstract: Recognition of the impacts of climate change has prompted re-assessment of existing conservation policy frameworks (here thought of as collections of means and objectives that reflect values, beliefs and expectations of control). The concern is that changing temperature and precipitation regimes will alter an extensive range of biological processes and patterns. These system dynamics are at odds with long-established conservation policies that are predicated on assumptions of stable biodiversity targets (e.g. species or ecosystems), and that seek to protect these targets by means of static protected areas. Efforts to address this challenge have so far originated from the fields of ecology and biogeography and include the core adaptive strategies of expanding protected areas and implementing migration corridors. The purpose of this research was to reach beyond these disciplines to integrate across a set of ecological and social insights to develop a more holistic understanding of challenge of adapting conservation policy to the impacts of climate change. Two overarching questions guided this research: 1) do the impacts of climate change necessitate a different set of means, objectives and expectations than are indicated by current conservation adaptation proposals (i.e. proposals that include new protected areas and migration corridors as the primary adaptive strategy); and 2) if there is evidence that this is so, what are the barriers to implementing a policy framework with new means, objectives and expectations? Using a combination of case study, expert elicitation, and ethnographic methods, the results of this thesis provide empirical evidence that the impacts of climate change are seen by many experts to implicate the need for changes in conservation policy that include consideration of interventions such facilitating species distributions through disturbance, assisted migration, revised objectives, and triage-like priority setting. Yet simultaneously there is evidence of a public precautionary ambivalence towards these alternative elements of a potentially new policy framework, combined with durable more preservationist (less engineering) conservation values. It is contended that these value-based commitments have in part, shaped the adaptive response so far. Combined, these results highlight that policy adaptation within “science-based” conservation is a tangle of social dynamics, including durable preservationist-type values and related resistance to anticipated difficult trade-offs implicit in a more transformative decision framework.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2429/7903

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