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Vernal pools are far more important for providing ecosystem services than one would predict based on their small size. However, prevailing resource-management strategies are not effectively conserving pools and other small natural features on private lands. Solutions are complicated by tensions between private property and societal rights, uncertainties over resource location and function, diverse stakeholders, and fragmented regulatory authority. The development and testing of new conservation approaches that link scientific knowledge, stakeholder decision-making, and conservation outcomes are important responses to this conservation dilemma. Drawing from a 15-y history of vernal pool conservation efforts in Maine, we describe the coevolution of pool conservation and research approaches, focusing on how research-based knowledge was produced and used in support of management decisions. As management shifted from reactive, top-down approaches to proactive and flexible approaches, research shifted from an ecology-focused program to an interdisciplinary program based on social-ecological systems. The most effective strategies for linking scientific knowledge with action changed as the decision-makers, knowledge needs, and context for vernal pool management advanced. Interactions among stakeholders increased the extent to which knowledge was coproduced and shifted the objective of stakeholder engagement from outreach to research collaboration and development of innovative conservation approaches. New conservation strategies were possible because of the flexible, solutions-oriented collaborations and trust between scientists and decision-makers (fostered over 15 y) and interdisciplinary, engaged research. Solutions to the dilemma of conserving small natural features on private lands, and analogous sustainability science challenges, will benefit from repeated negotiations of the science-policy boundary.
Calhoun, Aram J K; Jansujwicz, Jessica Spelke; Hunter Jr., Malcolm L.; and Bell, Kathleen P., "Improving management of small natural features on private lands by negotiating the science–policy boundary for Maine vernal pools" (2014). Publications. 33.
© 2014 National Academy of Sciences.
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