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Eliciting the Implicit Knowledge and Perceptions of On-Ground Conservation Managers of the Macquarie Marshes

Ioan Fazey, Institute of Rural Sciences, University of Wales, Aberystwyth
Katrina Proust, Centre for Resource and Environmental Studies, Australian National University
Barry Newell, Australian National University
Bill Johnson, Department of Environment and Conservation
John A. Fazey, University of Wales, Bangor

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Abstract

Knowledge that has been developed through extensive experience of receiving and responding to ecological feedback is particularly valuable for informing and guiding environmental management. This paper captures the implicit understanding of seven experienced on-ground conservation managers about the conservation issues affecting the Ramsar listed Macquarie Marshes in New South Wales, Australia. Multiple interviews, a workshop, and meetings were used to elicit the manager's knowledge. The managers suggest that the Macquarie Marshes are seriously threatened by a lack of water, and immediate steps need to be taken to achieve more effective water delivery. Their knowledge and perceptions of the wider societal impediments to achieving more effective water delivery have also led the managers to suggest that there may be system feedbacks that are reinforcing the tendency for water agencies to favor the short-term interests of the irrigation industry. Although the managers clearly have certain personal interests that influence their understanding and perceptions, much of their knowledge also appears to have been heavily influenced by their ecological understanding of the wetland's dynamics. This paper highlights that although all stakeholders clearly need to be involved in making decisions about conservation and how resources should be used, such decisions should not be confused with the need for consulting people with the appropriate ecological expertise to help determine the degree to which an ecological system is threatened, the likely ecological causes of the threats, and actions that may be needed to restore and maintain a functional ecosystem.

Key words

conservation management; water resources; wetland; experience; traditional ecological knowledge; tacit knowledge
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087