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Title: The role of social interactions in conservation conflict : goose management across Scotland
Author: Pollard, Chris R. J.
ISNI:       0000 0004 8502 7156
Awarding Body: University of Stirling
Current Institution: University of Stirling
Date of Award: 2018
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Increasing anthropogenic influence has left no corner of the natural world untouched. As the negative impacts of people on the natural world have become more prominent, pro-conservation actions have been incentivised across scales, from individual to societal to intergovernmental. Clashes over conservation objectives, when there is a perception that one party is asserting its interests at the expense of the other, is termed Conservation Conflict, and causes negative outcomes for biodiversity and people. Conservation conflicts are complex problems, the successful management of which can rarely be undertaken unilaterally, for both practical and ethical reasons. Finding the best ways for encouraging social interactions and cooperative behaviours are therefore vital in managing conservation conflict. I take a conservation conflict surrounding the damaging of crops by hyper-abundant flocks of wild geese across Scotland as a case study to explore the roles of social interactions in conservation conflict. In Chapter 2 I start at the network scale by modelling the interactions between individuals and organisations involved in the goose conflict at two locations. I test the networks for the prevalence of particular sets of network configurations which represent individuals forming interactions in response to either a coordination problem (where solutions are sought and implemented efficiently to tackle an agreed goal) or to a cooperation problem (where goals are not shared, and for which solutions must be sought through negotiation). I find that interaction networks in both locations were formed in response to, and have the function to tackle, coordination problems. This is useful for dealing with coordination problems such as the practical management of geese. Interaction networks formed in response to, and having the function to tackle, cooperation problems were less prevalent. This presents a problem when collective problem solving requires negotiation, such as for managing conservation conflict. Networks at both locations would benefit from forming certain types of interactions to strengthen the network for future cooperation problems. To effectively manage conservation conflicts in-depth knowledge of the cooperative behaviours of the people involved is required. In Chapter 3 I use stakeholder interviews, to investigate how and why individual members of three important stakeholder groups (farmers & crofters, conservation managers, and shooters) cooperated with one another and what barriers to cooperation they faced. I identify three dimensions of cooperation in the goose conflict: i) that the lack of horizontal interactions (between actors who interact with others at a similar organisational scale, for example farmers communicating with other farmers or conservation project managers communicating with other conservation project managers) and vertical interactions (between actors across different organisational scales, for example farmers communicating with farming union representatives, or conservation project managers communicating with senior management) linking widely distributed actors meant both shared learning and the perception of fairness suffer. Building up horizontal and vertical interactions could bypass these scientific and political barriers; ii) a false belief in uniformity among stakeholder groups can be the source of poor system understanding, which can be prevented by developing wider or alternative stakeholder representation; and iii) for long-term, complex issues, identification and discussion of trade-offs is needed to avoid poor outcomes throughout the process, not just at the planning stages. Laboratory experiments with volunteers show cooperation is less likely in the presence of uncertainty. Much less is known about how stakeholders in real-life conservation conflicts respond to different types of uncertainty. In Chapter 4, I test the effect of different sources of uncertainty on cooperative behaviour using a framed field experiment and interviews with crofters in Scotland. The experiment compared a baseline scenario of perfect certainty with scenarios including either: i) scientific uncertainty about the effectiveness of a conflict-reduction intervention; ii) administrative uncertainty about intervention funding; or iii) political uncertainty about the extent of community support. I find that crofters' intention to cooperate is high but lessened by uncertainty, especially over the commitment from other stakeholders to cooperate on goose management. I conclude that existing cooperation on goose management may be at risk if uncertainty isn't reduced outright or if commitments between parties are not strengthened. To avert this issue researchers and government advisers need to: i) determine how uncertainty will impact intention of stakeholders to cooperate; and ii) take steps (such as uncertainty reduction, communication, or acceptance) to reduce the negative impact of uncertainty on cooperation. In Chapter 5 I use the findings from Chapters 2 to 4 in conjunction with a conservation conflict management tool to evaluate goose conflict management in Scotland. I find many existing structures and processes of goose conflict management in Scotland were successful, but in order to build on these successes I propose several practical interventions. Increasing interactions between disparate groups; building data commons for shared learning; identification, acknowledgement, discussion and inclusion of trade-offs as they emerge; and making commitments to balance and fairness across the system. Enacting these recommendations would give goose conflict management in Scotland greater ability to deliver positive outcomes in what is a highly dynamic issue. This thesis uses mixed methods to investigate the role of social interaction in conservation conflict. The work succeeds in both identifying interventions specific for managing the goose conflict in Scotland and developing the theory of social interactions and cooperation in conservation conflict management more widely.
Supervisor: Bunnefeld, Nils ; Young, Juliette ; Redpath, Steve ; Thompson, Des ; Keane, Aidan ; Bussiere, Luc Sponsor: Natural Environment Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: conservation conflict ; goose ; decision-making ; cooperation ; natural resource management ; social network ; Geese ; Wildlife conservation ; Wildlife management ; Conflict management