Reef Grief: investigating the relationship between place meanings and place change on the Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Marshall, Nadine, Adger, William Neil, Benham, Claudia, Brown, Katrina, Curnock, Matthew I., Gurney, Georgina G., Marshall, Paul, Pert, Petina L., and Thiault, Lauric (2019) Reef Grief: investigating the relationship between place meanings and place change on the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Sustainability Science, 14 (3). pp. 579-587.

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It is well established that ecosystems bring meaning and well-being to individuals, often articulated through attachment to place. Degradation and threats to places and ecosystems have been shown to lead to loss of well-being. Here, we suggest that the interactions between ecosystem loss and declining well-being may involve both emotional responses associated with grief, and with observable impacts on mental health. We test these ideas on so-called ecological grief by examining individual emotional response to well-documented and publicized ecological degradation: coral bleaching and mortality in the Great Barrier Reef ecosystem. The study focuses both on one off events of coral loss and the prospect of continuing decline on the self-reported well-being of residents living within the ecosystem, visitors, and those whose livelihood is dependent on the marine resource: data from face-to-face surveys of 1870 local residents, 1804 tourists, and telephone surveys of 91 fishers and 94 tourism operators. We hypothesise that the extent to which individuals experience ecological grief is dependent on the meanings or intrinsic values (such as aesthetic, scientific, or biodiversity-based values), and is moderated by their place attachment, place identity, lifestyle dependence, place-based pride, and derived well-being. Results show that around half of residents, tourists and tourist operators surveyed, and almost one quarter of fishers, report significant Reef Grief. Reef Grief is closely and positively associated with place meanings within resident and tourist populations. By contrast respondents who rated high aesthetic value of the coral ecosystem report lower levels of Reef Grief. These findings have significant implications for how individuals and populations experience ecosystem decline and loss within places that are meaningful to them. Given inevitable cumulative future impacts on ecosystems from committed climate change impacts, understanding and managing ecological grief will become increasingly important. This study seeks to lay conceptual and theoretical foundations to identify how ecological grief is manifest and related to meaningful places and the social distribution of such grief across society.

Item ID: 59929
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1862-4057
Keywords: Place attachment; Ecological grief; Climate change; Sense of place; Place value; Commercial fishing; Cultural values; Ecosystem services
Copyright Information: Open Access. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons .org/licen ses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.
Date Deposited: 03 Sep 2019 00:39
FoR Codes: 44 HUMAN SOCIETY > 4410 Sociology > 441002 Environmental sociology @ 50%
44 HUMAN SOCIETY > 4407 Policy and administration > 440704 Environment policy @ 50%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9607 Environmental Policy, Legislation and Standards > 960701 Coastal and Marine Management Policy @ 100%
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