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Title: The role of historical environmental information in perceptions and management of an urban river
Author: Wright, Victoria
Awarding Body: University of Sheffield
Current Institution: University of Sheffield
Date of Award: 2017
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Environmental history can be defined as the study of past relationships between people and natural environments. Descriptions of ecosystems prior to their anthropogenic degradation (reference conditions) and their past degradation are increasingly used to set conservation goals. To a much lesser extent environmental history has been used to evaluate past environmental management. This thesis evaluates the potential of historical information to describe an ecosystem’s reference conditions, degradation and recovery and the interrelated social, economic, technological and legislative factors which drove these changes. It also assesses the potential for the dissemination of historical information to influence public perceptions of an ecosystem’s present conditions and their predictions for its future. It uses the River Don as a case study of a system that has been both highly valued and severely degraded by local people over centuries and has seen substantial restoration over recent decades. The key findings are: 1) historical biological records are of limited value in describing historical community composition due to recording biases; 2) historical newspaper articles provide much information on past relationships between people and the river but neglect some important environmental degradation issues; 3) local people’s historical knowledge of the river influence their perceptions in ways which may foster support for its restoration; 4) reading historical rather than current information on the River Don under experimental conditions leads participants to hold more negative views about the river’s current environmental state but does not affect their expectations regarding the river’s future or their intentions to visit it. This research provides further evidence that historical information is valuable for planning environmental restoration but is often limited by sparsity and bias. It indicates that historical knowledge has the potential to foster support for conservation but further research is needed to better understand the relationship between historical knowledge and support for conservation.
Supervisor: Warren, Philip H. ; Maltby, Lorraine Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available