M.Sc Thesis

M.Sc StudentZaidenberg Roy
SubjectMapping Perceptions and Attitudes of Stakeholders Towards
Key Themes Raised in an Ecosystem Services
Assessment: A Comparative Case Study of
Two Rural Peripheries in ...
DepartmentDepartment of Architecture and Town Planning
Supervisors ASSOCIATE PROF. Daniel Eli Orenstein
Full Thesis textFull thesis text - English Version


The world’s natural ecosystems have seen more change and degradation over the course of the last 60 years than in any other period in human history (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment 2005). In order to mitigate the negative impact on ecosystem health and human wellbeing, various environmental policy and planning frameworks have emerged. The Ecosystem Services (ES) framework is one such framework. The ES framework was designed with the goals of communicating the link between ecosystem health and human well-being in clear language and with measureable indicators to both policy makers and the wider public. The idea was that if people better understood this link they would be more inclined to support policy initiatives that address ecosystem health. While this framework has potential to enhance such communication, there have been several challenges impeding its effectiveness. Key amongst those challenges is providing an effective way to integrate local knowledge and values into policy and planning.

This research aims to address the challenge by using a bottom up approach to formulating a communication strategy that bridges the gap between expert scientific knowledge and local values. The research asks the following questions: a) How can the ES framework be used to identify and characterize different stakeholder groups; b) How do the underlying values of the stakeholders shape their perceptions of the benefits they get from the local environment; c) What variations exist in the perceptions of the different stakeholder groups, and; d) How can an assessment of stakeholder needs (as defined through use of the Ecosystem Services framework) contribute to planning?

The methods for this inquiry were semi-structured interviews of 40 individuals in two rural communities (Israel’s southern Dead Sea region and Scotland’s Cairngorms National Park). Interviewees were identified and selected using a combination of informant and snowball methodologies. Data was analyzed using emergent coding methodologies of the interview transcripts to identify over-arching themes. Subsequent analysis helped identify different attitudes and interests towards the relevant themes.

The results of the research highlight a number of interesting findings including a total of 11 key emergent themes. Four of the 11 themes were shared across the two research sites, despite the climatological and cultural differences. Furthermore, investigating the attitudes of the different interviewees towards the emergent themes allowed the identification of diverging and converging stakeholder interests. These results helped highlight converging interests where policy initiatives are likely to garner broad based support?as opposed to areas where stakeholder group perceptions diverged, pointing to areas where attempts at policy implementation would likely require additional groundwork.

The results point to very real benefits of an integrated approach to the ES framework which highlights both knowledge and values, and identifies the gaps between stakeholders and between different sources of knowledge.