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What Can Photo-Elicitation Tell Us About How Maritime Farmers Perceive Wetlands as Climate Changes?

Abstract

Wetlands provide numerous public and private benefits, cushioning our vulnerability to climate change, yet wetlands are increasingly subject to land-use conversion. In Nova Scotia, land drainage has become as much a cultural practice as a production activity in the almost four centuries since Acadians started draining coastal marshes for farming. Nonetheless, many farmers have begun reintroducing and restoring wetlands. We undertook an exploratory photo-elicitation study with livestock farmers in Cumberland County, Nova Scotia, to understand what their farm landscape values suggested about their perceptions of wetlands and climate change without disclosing these specific interests. Farm landscapes evoked three general themes for farmers: pragmatic and immediate issues related to short-term economic viability; longer-term stewardship of ecosystem services, albeit an incomplete set of them; and, sense of place and identity. Many farmers clearly valued wetlands—and were having them constructed—largely to improve and regulate water quality. Climate change was not, however, a significant component of any narratives, much less those related to wetlands, potentially because of the visual methods employed to elicit them.

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Acknowledgements

This study was funded by the SSHRC Research Development Fund at Dalhousie University (via their Institutional Grant), generously supplemented by the School for Resource and Environmental Studies. The research method was approved by the Dalhousie University Research Ethics Board in June 2011 as complying with the Tri-Council Policy Statement on Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans. Thanks to Simon Greenland-Smith for research assistance and John Brazner for discussions throughout and beyond this work. Collegial comments from Bruce Roberts, Erin Smith, Patricia Manuel and one anonymous reviewer improved the manuscript. Most importantly, however, we send enthusiastic thanks to the 20 landholders who participated in the study.

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Correspondence to Kate Sherren.

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Sherren, K., Verstraten, C. What Can Photo-Elicitation Tell Us About How Maritime Farmers Perceive Wetlands as Climate Changes?. Wetlands 33, 65–81 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13157-012-0352-2

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Keywords

  • Atlantic Provinces
  • Agriculture
  • Constructed wetlands
  • Cumberland County
  • Ecosystem services
  • Landscape values
  • Livestock farming systems
  • Nova Scotia
  • Photovoice