Improving plant conservation interventions through a better understanding of human decision-making

Williams, Sophie J. (2013) Improving plant conservation interventions through a better understanding of human decision-making. PhD thesis, Prifysgol Bangor University.

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The threats to biodiversity are predominantly a result of human behaviour. Conservation interventions, from policy formulation to environmental education, often aim to foster behaviour change. But further research is needed to explore the mechanism of behaviour change in a conservation context and what interventions influence behaviour at different scales - from encouraging institutional adoption of conservation policy, to the determinates of household level decision-making. This is particularly important for plant conservation; with more than a quarter of plants species threatened, urgent action and changes in human behaviour are needed to reduce the continuing loss of plant diversity. The purpose of my first chapter is to assess the implementation of an international plant conservation policy and identify what factors influence policy uptake. I examined how and why botanic gardens have responded to the first phase of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC). I surveyed 255 botanic gardens in 67 countries and carried out in-depth interviews with five gardens in five countries. I highlighted how wider policy dissemination is needed to increase global implementation, with particular focus on influencing younger global north gardens and older global south gardens. I identified environmental education as a priority by many botanic gardens and show policy targets related to sustainable plant use are often neglected. I then assessed the effectiveness of education and training programmes implemented by botanic gardens in two different contexts. I first investigated the influence of UK botanic gardens on visitors’ conservation knowledge, environmental attitudes and behavioural intentions. I surveyed 1054 people in five botanic gardens in the UK. A botanic garden visit has no impact on conservation knowledge or behavioural intention but environmental attitude was more positive when people were leaving the botanic garden than on entering. I found no relationship between attitudes and behaviour. Secondly I assessed the effectiveness of targeted training programmes as an approach to encourage behaviour change. I investigated a training programme based at Belize Botanic Garden aiming to encourage cultivation of the over-harvested palm Chamaedorea ernesti-augusti. I surveyed 49 untrained and 38 trained individuals and found the training increased technical knowledge and participants’ self belief, resulting in uptake of cultivation. However, access to seeds was highlighted as a potential barrier to cultivation. Future training programmes may need to consider practical barriers as well as improving technical knowledge, to encourage adoption of cultivation. Finally, I evaluated the effectiveness of different policy interventions to encourage behaviour change at the household level. Using data from the cultivation and harvesting of C. ernesti-augusti, I created a bioeconomic model to identify policies capable of influencing individual decision-making and interventions likely to encourage people to change from harvesting to cultivation. Although schemes to encourage cultivation maybe an appealing conservation intervention, I have suggested caution in assuming that people will readily adopt cultivation of wild harvested species, or that this would necessarily reduce impacts on wild populations. My research provides new insight into the predictors of human behaviour. I illustrate that behaviour may not be solely predicted by attitudes and I show additional behavioural determinants, such as knowledge and self-belief are likely to impact changes in behaviour. This thesis provides new knowledge about the factors determining human behavioural responses to conservation interventions. In this thesis I have discussed how different disciplines provide valuable insight into the process of behaviour change and also highlighted the limitations of each approach. I suggested that conservation science would benefit from further combining approaches from different disciplines to improve the implementation and effectiveness of plant conservation interventions.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Subjects: Degree Thesis
Departments: College of Natural Sciences > School of Environment, Natural Resources and Geography
Degree Thesis
Date Deposited: 12 Aug 2015 14:48
Last Modified: 31 Mar 2016 13:47
URI: http://e.bangor.ac.uk/id/eprint/4949
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