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Title: The development of integrated conservation strategies based on environmental science and psychology : a case of study of the freshwater pearl mussel
Author: Walker-Springett, Kate
ISNI:       0000 0004 5347 1623
Awarding Body: Cardiff University
Current Institution: Cardiff University
Date of Award: 2014
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The freshwater pearl mussel (FPM) is an iconic bivalve mollusc whose presence in rivers is assumed to indicate a healthy, bio-diverse ecosystem, capable of providing a range of goods and services. However, excessive sedimentation has been shown consistently to have detrimental effects on FPM, at both the juvenile and adult life stages. As a major source of diffuse river pollution, previous studies have shown erosion rates rising with increasing precipitation, suggesting also increased risk under wetter, future climates. So far, however, most erosion studies have been at the small plot scale and hence it is not possible to make predictions at the catchment scale where risk assessments for FPM are most relevant. Furthermore, little research has focussed on how work to remediate sediment delivery might affect public appreciation of rivers as highly valued landscape features. This research focussed on three typical FPM rivers in the UK: the Ehen catchment in Northern England; the Conwy in North Wales and the Dee in East Scotland and asked 1) How will climate change predictions for the period 2010 – 2039 affect soil erosion at the catchment scale? 2) What factors influence public attitudes towards rivers, the FPM, and mitigation measures to control sediment movement? and 3) Can habitat management for FPMs take into account climate-driven environmental change and social values when constructing conservation goals? In respect of the first aim, the Pan-European Soil Erosion Risk assessment model, PESERA, showed that whilst soil erosion rates increased with rising precipitation, land cover was a more dominant driver of erosion rates over the period studied (2010-2039). Despite being flatter, arable land had higher erosion rates than those from forested portions of each catchment, which were in regions of steeper topography. Secondly, based on a mixture of qualitative focus groups and quantitative surveys, the majority of people had positive attitudes toward rivers, both in a general and local sense. The FPM was not a well-known aquatic species but information about possible human or ecological beneficiaries of mitigation to control sediment delivery into rivers did not affect how acceptable these measures were perceived to be. Factors increasing acceptability of mitigation measures included natural looking scenes that were accessible. In contrast, concerns about impacts on agriculture and food production led to lower levels of acceptability. Finally, this research highlighted crossovers between FPM habitat needs and ideal river scenes from a public perspective and concluded that social values of riverscapes can be included in habitat management plans for the FPM, without compromising conservation goals. A case study exemplifying the methodology used to do this, using the Dee catchment, Scotland and future scenarios from the National Ecosystem Assessment showed that conservation measures in aid of the FPM can accommodate different land management priorities and societal needs. As one of the first studies to assess interactions between evidence from physical sciences, ecology and public perception for an iconic species, this research is expected to have far reaching consequences for public policy, land management practices and river conservation. At a policy level, this includes the ways in which environmental practices can accommodate the social values identified within this research to allow a more holistic approach to ecosystem management; for on the ground practitioners, this research will influence how ecologically important but socially unfamiliar species are managed and how the impacts of land management are assessed both temporally, (to include the impacts of future climate change), spatially, (to take account of catchment wide effects) and socially (to examine social acceptability of different management options).
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: GB Physical geography ; GE Environmental Sciences ; Q Science (General) ; QH301 Biology