Communicating Marine Environmental Health: Connecting Science, Social and Policy Values
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Human activities are degrading marine ecosystems and undermining the ecological functions and processes which provide valued goods and services. European and UK marine policy developments aim to implement the Ecosystem Approach to support better management of activities and maintain the health of regional seas. Current public perceptions of the UK marine environment are overwhelmingly negative, creating a barrier to engaging society with marine environmental issues and policy. This thesis conducts a study of the attributes of a suite of 72 UK marine species to identify those which contribute most to marine ecological health. The findings show that structurally complex species are most important and are recommended as species to assess and monitor Good Environmental Status as defined by the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive. Existing conservation policies are biased towards large vertebrate species, with ecologically important species being underprotected. A survey of public perceptions of the marine environment. revealed conflicting perceptions of charismatic megafauna. Charismatic species were the most interesting species but least important as measures of marine health. Ecologically important species were the least interesting, but ecological health concepts were considered important measures of marine health. Perceptions of the marine environment varied with socio-demographic and social value factors. By integrating these studies, barriers and opportunities to engaging society with the marine environment were identified. Communication strategies which address these are proposed, including a suite of Spokes Species, potential high profile species to champion the marine environment. These include puffin, cod, basking shark and seagrass. A series of themes are proposed which implement other key findings such as the importance of personal experience in building connections with marine species. Communication strategies are supported by ecologically defined assessments of marine environmental health, are relevant to current policy developments and will resonate with social values of the marine environment.
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