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Title:Local hazards knowledge and risk perceptions of stakeholders in Southern Illinois watershed partnerships
Author(s):Boufajreldin, Lama
Director of Research:Flint, Courtney G.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Flint, Courtney G.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):David, Mark B.; Greene, Jennifer C.; Gasteyer, Stephen P.
Department / Program:Natural Res & Env Sci
Discipline:Natural Res & Env Sciences
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree:Ph.D.
Genre:Dissertation
Subject(s):Collaborative Watershed Management
Local Hazards Knowledge
Risk Perception
Holistic and Preventative Watershed Management
Abstract:During the past three decades, thousands of watershed groups or partnerships have emerged in the United States as federal and state agencies have fostered collaborative and participatory approaches to include local stakeholders in managing their watersheds. Many of these partnerships have failed to achieve their environmental potential due to lack of funds, poor management decisions, and ineffective leadership. However, ineffective management has also been tied to the limited capacity of local stakeholders to design holistic management schemes that address the multiplicity and complexity of watershed hazards and their effects and the interrelationships between health, social, and ecological uncertainties of watersheds. Looking into the roles of local hazards knowledge and risk perception can help understand how these two parameters influence collaborative watershed management and can provide watershed managers with insights on designing holistic management schemes that can address the complexities and health, social, and ecological uncertainties of watersheds. This study examined the relationship between local hazards knowledge and risk perception within the context of four Southern Illinois watersheds: the Cache, Kinkaid, Lower Ohio Bay, and Saline. A mixed methods approach—using secondary data analysis to assess watersheds’ biophysical and socioeconomic vulnerability, semi-structured interviews, concept mapping, and surveys—was adopted to examine the relationship between: (a) the complexity of stakeholders’ local hazards knowledge and integration of health, social, and ecological risk perceptions; and (b) stakeholders’ awareness of the prevalence of and their levels of concerns about watershed hazards and their effects. Results of concept mapping of semi-structured interviews showed within and across watershed variations in the complexity of stakeholders’ knowledge, both in terms of the nature and level of connections between multiple watershed hazards and their effects on ecological and human wellbeing. While participants predominantly articulated unidirectional relationships between direct effects of direct forces of change on ecosystem services and to a lesser extent on human wellbeing, fewer participants articulated bidirectional relationships between direct forces of environmental changes and ecosystem services. The local context seemed to play a significant role in molding the complexity of stakeholders’ local knowledge. Participants of the Cache attained the highest complexity scores compared to those of the Saline, Kinkaid, and Lower-Ohio Bay. It is suggested that knowledge of the historical progression of environmental problems by the Cache participants might have led to elevated complexity compared their counterparts in the other three studied watersheds who did not discuss how environmental problems evolved and progressed in their watersheds. Finally, analysis of concept mapping showed that stakeholders’ complexity of local hazards knowledge, organizational affiliation, tenure, and role in partnership were not strong indicators of the integration of health, social, and ecological concerns. On another note, survey results also showed within and across watershed variation in level of stakeholders’ awareness of the prevalence of, and concerns about six watershed hazards (acid runoff, agricultural runoff, deforestation, erosion, flooding, and poor river drainage) and their effects on ecological and human wellbeing. The local context influenced local knowledge and risk perception. For instance, stakeholders of the Lower-Ohio Bay—a watershed technically assessed as having both low biophysical and socioeconomic vulnerability—had the lowest level of concerns as compared to their counterparts in the Cache—a watershed technically assessed as having both high biophysical and socioeconomic vulnerability—who had the highest levels of concerns. Despite variations in local hazards knowledge across watersheds, such variations were not congruent to results of the technical assessment of the four studied watersheds. For instance, despite the Cache being assessed as having both high biophysical and socioeconomic vulnerability, its participants held awareness of lower prevalence of watershed problems compared to stakeholders of the Saline watershed—technically assessed as having low biophysical and high socioeconomic vulnerability—who held awareness of a higher prevalence of watershed hazards and their effects. Finally, survey results showed that the relationship between local knowledge and risk perception is contextual, as awareness of the prevalence of hazards and their effects did not influence risk perceptions in all studied watersheds. For instance, in the Kinkaid watershed years of involvement in partnership rather than local knowledge was found to influence risk perception. The results of this study highlight the need to build the capacity of stakeholders to consider the complexity and multidimensional uncertainties of watersheds and to integrate both local and scientific knowledge while devising holistic watershed management schemes. Findings also reveal the need to understand factors underlying variations in local knowledge and risk perception across watersheds if considering collaborative management across several watersheds.
Issue Date:2012-05-22
URI:http://hdl.handle.net/2142/30926
Rights Information:Copyright 2012 Lama Boufajreldin
Date Available in IDEALS:2012-05-22
Date Deposited:2012-05


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