Scale-Dependent Feedbacks Among Protected Areas and Surrounding Socioecological Systems

Administrative boundaries that establish land management jurisdictions affect both ecological and social processes. In the US, undeveloped lands occur in mosaics of public and private jurisdictions with varying management. These mosaics thus support varying regional cultures as well as natural-resources-based economies. These mosaic landscapes also support many species and are sources of ecosystem services such as pollination, carbon fixation, water supply and purification, and pest control. For differences in these mosaics, this research will determine (1) how social and ecological boundaries, fragmentation, and connectedness are related; and (2) how such partitioning affects management priorities and outcomes, including social relationships, management decision-making, landscape-scale management challenges, and ecological functioning. Results will enhance regional land management and decision making through a decision-support system shared with stakeholders so as to enhance the scientific basis of land management.

This project will explore how administrative partitioning affects feedbacks within and between social and ecological systems. Five mosaics comprising US National Parks and adjacent parcels in the western US will be analyzed. How complexity and differences in management across the administrative landscape affect processes and outcomes in terms of connectivity, well-being, decision-making, and cooperation in the social landscape; connectivity of habitat and processes in the ecological landscape; and feedback pathways between social and ecological landscapes will be modeled. Research activities will include (a) a focus on the influence of the management mosaic on decision-making by managers; (b) soil/vegetation/remote sensing assessment to delineate ecological boundaries; (c) novel development of landscape scale social decision-making and ecological connectivity models; (d) integration of social and ecological data into a generalizable spatial coupled systems model; and (e) an analysis of factors contributing to the success or failure of participatory processes. This research will improve understanding of how management challenges are affected by collaboration and connectivity across boundaries, the scale at which ecological divergence occurs, and factors facilitating attainment of diverse management objectives.

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