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Title: Governing disturbance regimes : rewilding and the management of large herbivores in UK nature conservation
Author: Ferreira Soares, Filipa
ISNI:       0000 0005 0292 161X
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2020
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In recent years, there has been a rethinking of the role of disturbance regimes in nature conservation: from exceptional and destructive events to be controlled and/or avoided, to key ecological processes to be nurtured and choreographed. These regimes concern the spatiotemporal dynamics of ecological disturbances, understood here as events that disrupt the structure of an ecology, community or population, causing profound changes in an ecosystem. The rethinking of their role precedes but resonates with current enthusiasms for proactive and experimental modes of conservation, such as rewilding. This thesis draws on three case studies (the New Forest, Knepp Castle Estate and Dundreggan Estate) to explore the ontological, epistemic and socio-political implications of rewilding for the governance of forest disturbance regimes in the UK, particularly through the use of large herbivores. Drawing upon relational understandings of nature, space and time, it develops an understanding of disturbance regimes as process and practice. It first examines how rewilding departs from orthodox biopolitical modes of governing life and the ontological politics at the interface between these various modes. To this end, it attends to the ways in which disturbances have been historically understood and how these understandings have come to shape their governance. Second, it explores the knowledge practices through which ecologists and forest managers know and enact disturbances, comparing a traditional 'prescriptive' approach with rewilding. It argues that in practice rewilding is multiple, in contrast to rewilding discourse. Finally, it maps the different and sometimes conflicting social, economic and cultural values associated with working with natural processes, exploring the political ecologies of governing disturbance regimes. It argues that controversies around forest management pertain to a large extent to contrasting perceptions of different types of 'work' within the idea of working landscape and how they are 'naturalised'. In the conclusion, the thesis explores three empirical and conceptual contributions of these findings for those seeking to understand the logics of rewilding and the processes, practices and dynamics by which nonhuman forms and processes are governed in a post-Natural and uncertain future. First, by deploying a relational approach to the governance of disturbance regimes and by focusing on a long-term disturbance, I draw out the relevance of temporality for thinking through and with disturbances as social and ecological processes. Second, by drawing attention to the intertwining of bio- and socio-political regimes, I propose a reframing of (European) rewilded landscapes as working landscapes. Finally, by attending to the intricacies of practice, I argue that rewilding praxis is multiple and hybrid. It often involves compromises and is shaped by past governance histories and the broader political and social context.
Supervisor: Lorimer, Jamie Sponsor: Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia ; Economic and Social Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: More-than-human geography ; Nature conservation ; Environmental governance