Does biodiversity restore us? The relationship between public perceptions of amenity and biodiversity in urban river corridors in Melbourne

Corney, H 2018, Does biodiversity restore us? The relationship between public perceptions of amenity and biodiversity in urban river corridors in Melbourne, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Global, Urban and Social Studies, RMIT University.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Does biodiversity restore us? The relationship between public perceptions of amenity and biodiversity in urban river corridors in Melbourne
Author(s) Corney, H
Year 2018
Abstract Most urban river corridors are located within public land which plays a crucial role in supporting threatened urban biodiversity. These spaces are also frequently accessed and valued by the public for the recreational, psychological and restorative values that they possess. As urban density increases, so too, the pressures (such as development, urban heat and stormwater) on urban river corridors and adjacent public land increases. The manner in which these spaces are managed is of great importance if the needs of both biodiversity and humans are to be met.

The development of appropriate environmental management strategies requires that we understand the interactions between people and the environments in which they live. Public perceptions studies have traditionally focused on how people perceive nature with particular emphasis on visual perception. However, public perception studies of urban river corridors are generally limited and studies undertaken in-situ are particularly scarce.  Although it is generally agreed that contact with nature has restorative value, identifying which specific elements or qualities of nature are most restorative has received less attention, especially in relation to urban river corridors.  Furthermore, if urban river corridors are going to be managed to benefit both people and biodiversity there is also a need to identify whether biodiversity levels have an influence on the restorative potential of urban river corridors and nature in general.  To address these short-coming, the primary objective of my research is to improve the usefulness of public perceptions of amenity as a component of river corridor and public land management by providing a clearer articulation of how amenity is perceived by the public and how it relates to biodiversity. Understanding the broader social environment is a critical aspect of urban biodiversity projects on public land as the interaction between people and the environment will have implications for project success.

Gaining a clearer appreciation of public perceptions of amenity values of urban river corridors has been identified as important for developing beneficial management strategies. Employing an interpretivist qualitative approach, I explore interactions between the social and ecological factors involved in managing for amenity at four sites along two urban river corridors that have different biodiversity levels. I identify broad themes in public perceptions of amenity of urban river corridors through in-situ audio recordings and self-reported written responses and explore the relationship between these themes and differing levels of biodiversity.

My findings improve our understanding of how people experience urban river corridors and identify elements that contribute to their restorative value. I explore the role of sensory responses in perception formation and identify synergies and conflicts between perceived amenity and biodiversity. In the face of increased biodiversity loss and stress-induced human illnesses, understanding these relationships is important in defining effective policy and on-ground activities for urban rivers that meet the needs of public land management, the public and ecology.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Global, Urban and Social Studies
Subjects Environmental Management
Conservation and Biodiversity
Keyword(s) environmental management
urban biodiversity
human health
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Created: Thu, 07 Feb 2019, 10:42:33 EST by Keely Chapman
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