Social dimensions of biodiversity conservation on private land

Moon, Katie (2011) Social dimensions of biodiversity conservation on private land. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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The prevalence of private property in most western countries places the responsibility for biodiversity conservation in the hands of hundreds of millions of individuals. To preserve the remaining biodiversity on private land, many conservation policies and programs have been deployed. These policies and programs, however, have largely failed, due to a lack of understanding landholders' social characteristics, which influence their capacity and willingness to participate in conservation programs and adopt conservation practices.

Innovation-adoption theory explains how, why and at what rate innovations are adopted. I used this theory to conceptualise landholder participation in conservation programs because it offers an approach to increase our understanding of the motivations and barriers to participation. Advancements in our knowledge of landholder behaviour can improve the design of conservation programs through more informed choices of policy instruments that assist government and non-government agencies in achieving their conservation policy goals. Currently, our knowledge of the linkages between landholders' social characteristics and their preferences for policy instruments remains inconclusive.

The overall aim of this research was to contribute to our understanding of how the social characteristics of landholders influence their conservation behaviour, in support of the improved use of policy instruments. Specifically, the objectives of this research were to understand: 1) how social characteristics differed between landholders who had participated in one of three conservation programs; 2) what motivated and limited the involvement of participants; 3) how the social characteristics of conservation program participants and nonparticipants differed; 4) why some landholders chose not to participate in conservation programs; and 5) how conservation programs could be designed to enlist landholders who may otherwise not participate. To satisfy these research objectives, I designed a revealed preference study to examine landholders' 'actual' preferences for policy instruments. Three north Queensland conservation programs were selected that each employed different policy instruments: the voluntary Queensland Government Nature Refuge Program; the direct-payment Cassowary Coast Rate Deferral Scheme; and the market-based Desert Uplands Landscape Linkages Program. Each program required participants to enter into a conservation agreement or covenant.

Invitations were sent to 58 participants in the three programs. In total, 45 conservation program participants were interviewed between February and June 2009. Twenty-nine landholders who had not participated in one of these programs (non-participants), but who may otherwise have qualified for the program, were recruited, using snowball sampling, and interviewed. Semi-structured interviews were used to administer a survey that comprised both closed and open response questions. Chi-square and randomization tests were used to analyse quantitative data; the discourse analysis methods of grounded theory were used to analyse qualitative data.

The results revealed that landholders' dominant land use (production or non-production) influenced their preference for policy instruments. Production landholders used the land to derive an income from production-related activities, worked longer hours on their properties and experienced higher levels of stress related to their lifestyle. They were more likely to participate in short-term programs that offered large financial incentives, and conserved less than 25% of their property. Non-production landholders, who did not derive an income from production-related activities, demonstrated stronger personal norms and environmental attitudes regarding their role in conservation, and were more likely to participate in long-term programs that were voluntary or offered small financial incentives, and conserved more than 75% of their property.

I used qualitative data to understand landholders' relative commitment to biodiversity conservation. Overall, landholders were motivated to participate in conservation programs by conservation, production, financial and experimentally-based imperatives. Production landholders represented all four motivations, while non-production landholders were only motivated by conservation or financial imperatives. These motivations, along with landholders' perspectives of the landscape (i.e., whether the land could be used for only production or conservation [uni-functional] or both [multifunctional]), influenced how they selected what land they would allocate to conservation. In some instances, these choices resulted in no additional gain beyond what would have occurred from 'business as usual', or actually represented a threat to biodiversity.

Comparisons between program participants and non-participants revealed that nonparticipants had significantly lower levels of human and social capital than participants, in four of the eight dimensions assessed: lifestyle and wellbeing, information and knowledge, environmental attitudes, and trust. Significant differences were not observed for four other dimensions that were measured. Higher levels of pre-existing capital increased the likelihood of landholder participation in conservation programs; lower levels of human capital reduced the likelihood of participation.

Qualitative data were used to understand context-specific reasons for non-participation. Two major barriers to participation existed. First, non-participants believed that the programs did not fit with their personal needs or align with their land management goals and obligations, and were not sufficiently practical or flexible. They feared participation would have directly or indirectly infringed upon their property rights and compromised the economic value of their property. Second, non-participants harboured a deep mistrust of previous and current governments, which represented an impermeable barrier to participation. For some respondents, participation was conditional on the fit between their property goals and both the characteristics of the program and the mandate of the program administrator (i.e., conditional non-participants). For other respondents, these barriers completely inhibited their willingness to participate (resistant non-participants). Non-participants believed that program administrators' commitment to political goals, implicit in program design, confounded the relevance of conservation programs to their personal needs and property conditions.

These findings make an important contribution to private land conservation policy. Landholders presented as a heterogeneous group of individuals whose participation in conservation programs was defined largely by their reliance on the land for income, landscape perspective, human and social capital, trust in the program administrator, and the politico-historical context. These factors influenced landholders' capacity and willingness to participate in conservation programs, their preference for policy instruments, and how they selected land to conserve, which suggest that it is no longer necessary to understand adoption of innovation as occurring along a continuum based only on socio-psychological factors. These findings should be used to improve the use of policy instruments in conservation program design so they can genuinely preserve biodiversity on the private land to which they are targeted.

Item ID: 18662
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: policy, social-psychological, land use, biodiversity, private land, voluntary conservation programs, environmental perspectives, policy instruments, private property rights, landholders, landholder behaviour, landholder behavior, social characteristics, participation motivations, participation barriers, Queensland Government Nature Refuge Program, Cassowary Coast Rate Deferral Scheme, Desert Uplands Landscape Linkages Program
Additional Information:

Publications arising from this thesis are available from the Related URLs field. The publications are:

Chapter 4: Moon, K. and Cocklin, C. (2011). A landholder-based approach to the design of private-land conservation programs. Conservation Biology, 25 (3): 493-503.

Chapter 5: Moon, K. and Cocklin, C. (2011). Participation in biodiversity conservation: motivations and barriers of Australian landholders. Journal of Rural Studies, 27 (3): 331-342.

Related URLs:
Date Deposited: 28 Nov 2011 23:11
FoR Codes: 05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050202 Conservation and Biodiversity @ 33%
16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1605 Policy and Administration > 160507 Environment Policy @ 34%
07 AGRICULTURAL AND VETERINARY SCIENCES > 0701 Agriculture, Land and Farm Management > 070199 Agriculture, Land and Farm Management not elsewhere classified @ 33%
SEO Codes: 83 ANIMAL PRODUCTION AND ANIMAL PRIMARY PRODUCTS > 8303 Livestock Raising > 830301 Beef Cattle @ 33%
90 COMMERCIAL SERVICES AND TOURISM > 9098 Environmentally Sustainable Commercial Services and Tourism > 909805 Management of Water Consumption by Commercial Services and Tourism @ 33%
94 LAW, POLITICS AND COMMUNITY SERVICES > 9402 Government and Politics > 940204 Public Services Policy Advice and Analysis @ 34%
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