Public perceptions of wetlands: implications for wetland conservation and management : a thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Applied Science at Lincoln University
Wetlands are one of New Zealand's most threatened biological communities; many attribute this to be a direct result of poor public understanding of wetland values and functions. Public actions and opinions contribute to the prioritisation of resources for conservation and management. Christchurch, New Zealand, was used as a case-study to determine: public perceptions of wetlands compared to other natural areas; awareness of the economic, ecological and social values of wetlands; and the characteristics used to identify an area as a wetland. The approach involved developing administered a questionnaire face-to-face to a sample of 80 people. Respondents were selected using a multistage, cluster sampling technique, involving random sampling within randomly selected geographic areas. Hypotheses were tested using three nonparametric statistical tests: Spearman's rank correlation, Wilcoxin's matched-pairs signed-ranks test and the Mann-Whitney-U test. An additional questionnaire was developed and administered to personnel responsible for wetland management in the Christchurch City Council, Canterbury Regional Council, Department of Conservation (Canterbury Conservancy) and consultants. Qualitative data from these interviews were used aid thesis discussion and recommendations. Consistent with the traditional view of wetlands as wastelands, swamps were not as highly valued for visitation, recreation and scenery as native forests, beaches, deep lakes, braided rivers, single channel rivers and tidal lakes or estuaries. Although the people questioned in Christchurch placed a high value on the conservation of wetlands, this value was not as high as that placed on areas such as native forests. Native forests were perceived as a top conservation priority because they are rare, degraded and because they support endangered species. The public's definition of a wetland was narrower than the definition in the Resource Management Act. According to this study, wetlands do not include areas of open water, defined by the public as a lake or river. Wetlands were primarily characterised by a high water table and the presence of wetland vegetation, primarily grasses, sedges and rushes. The respondents were more aware of the social and ecological values of wetlands than of the economic values such as improving water quality, filtering pollution and mitigating flood waters. Most were not aware of these values. There was wide appreciation for wetland ecological values such as habitat for wildlife and migrating birds. It is envisaged that improved and proactive management of wetlands will raise the public profile of wetlands, thereby increasing public awareness of the values and functional benefits of wetland communities. Interviews with wetland managers established that a lack of resources and insufficient information are fundamental barriers to wetland management. It is recommended that a detailed inventory of wetland type, state and distribution be undertaken. This should be complemented by the development of monitoring methods and reporting protocols to aid wetland managers. Wetland management at a local level should involve extensive community consultation and involvement, aimed at enhancing community perceptions of wetlands and producing publicly acceptable management methods and results.... [Show full abstract]
Keywordswetland management; public perceptions; environmental awareness; natural areas; wetland values; Christchurch; economic values; ecological values; Wetland conservation
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