Date of Award

12-2016

Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Ecology and Environmental Sciences

Advisor

Caroline Noblet

Second Committee Member

Kathleen P. Bell

Third Committee Member

Bridie McGreavy

Additional Committee Members

Jane Disney

Abstract

Coastal ecosystems provide services from which humans benefit and find value in their consumption. Broader definitions of ecosystem services include all goods and services associated with natural resources, and while many of those goods and services are exchanged and valued in traditional economic markets, the full range of values which humans attribute to ecosystem services is not always accounted for through market transactions. This omission may lead to resource over-exploitation or degradation. Human behaviors like the use of chemicals, fertilizers, and pesticides in home gardens contribute to externalities such as coastal water quality degradation due to polluted runoff. By exploring the attitudes which impact willingness to support coastal water quality programs and the participant experience in Ecosystem Service Valuation (ESV) workshops, we examine engagement in valuation from multiple perspectives. In our first study, we use exploratory factor analysis and binary logit regression to show that citizens’ latent attitudes about personal responsibility toward coastal water quality and sources of contamination such as polluted coastal runoff, in addition to fee amount and standard sociodemographic factors such as age and education, are reliable predictors of program support. We extend our findings with a unique comparison of citizen socio-demographics and responses to key questions about behaviors, values, and perceptions using descriptive statistical results from a parallel survey of engaged stakeholders in Frenchman Bay, Maine. In our second study (also based in Frenchman Bay, Maine) we use case study methodology to address a gap in the literature: how ecosystem service valuation is used in application with stakeholders. This case study explores ESV workshops as a participatory model for stakeholder engagement. Importantly, our research on citizen and engaged stakeholder attitudes contributes to the investigation of boundary organizations as agents for scientific knowledge transfer and linking knowledge to action in the world of coastal zone management. Simultaneously, our case study on ESV as a participatory model provides evidence about the stakeholder experience in valuing ecosystem services and gives recommendations for future application of ESV both in workshops and online. Increasingly, researchers and decision makers alike are recognizing both the importance of adopting coupled human-natural systems thinking in management decisions and embracing the role of stakeholders as decision makers. Our research speaks to the growing role of stakeholders as decision-makers and the inclusion of multiple perspectives (tradeoffs, priorities, attitudes) from diverse groups living and working at the coupled human-natural systems interface into valuation work. Not only is the inclusion of citizen and engaged stakeholder perspectives in coastal management planning equitable, but it also engages individuals in thinking about the connections between their actions and the ecosystems around them, and may ultimately result in more robust decision support tools for stakeholders.

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