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Rivers and streams in the media: a content analysis of ecosystem services

Matthew A. Weber, Independent Consultant
Shannon Caplan, Department of Anthropology, Oregon State University
Paul Ringold, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Research and Development, Western Ecology Division
Karen Blocksom, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Western Ecology Division

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-09496-220315

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Abstract

Although ecosystem services research has become common, few efforts are directed toward in-depth understanding of the specific ecological quantities people value. The theoretical framework of final ecosystem services focuses attention on such measurable attributes, as a common currency for social-ecological systems research. Environmental communications as well as ecological monitoring and analysis efforts could be enhanced through increased documentation of final ecosystem services. For example, small changes in the way ecosystems are described could strongly influence relevance to the public and improve the foundation for environmental decision making. Focusing on rivers and streams, we conducted a content analysis of existing publications to document the breadth and frequency with which various measurable attributes, such as flooding, water quality characteristics, and wildlife appeared in different news sources over a multiyear timeline. In addition to attributes, motivations for human interest in river-related resources were also coded, such as recreation or preservation for future generations. To allow testing of differences between materials written for different audiences, three sources were sampled: a blog hosted by National Geographic, New York Times articles, and Wall Street Journal articles. The coding approach was rigorously tested in a pilot phase, with measures developed to ensure high data quality, including use of two independent coders. Results show numerous similarities across sources with some notable differences in emphasis. Significant relationships between groups of attribute and motivation codes were also found, one outcome of which is further support for the importance of nonuse values for fish and wildlife. Besides offering insight on ecosystem services, the project demonstrates an in-depth quantitative approach to analyzing preexisting qualitative data.

Key words

content analysis; final ecosystem services; media; multivariate analysis of variance; nonmetric multidimensional scaling; rivers and streams

Copyright © 2017 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087