The problem of river restoration and maintenance failure: stock exclusion, social norms & drought
AuthorMoore, Harriet Elizabeth
AffiliationSchool of Geography
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2018 Dr. Harriet Elizabeth Moore
Governments respond to environmental problems by implementing interventions to promote sustainability, such as projects to mitigate the impact of societies in river basins, and campaigns to encourage people to voluntarily reduce water consumption in homes. To be effective, many of the activities and behaviours involved in these interventions need to be maintained indefinitely. Research and policy about river restoration has focused on designing effective projects rather than how well those projects are maintained over the long-term. Similarly, research about promoting pro-environmental behaviour has emphasized factors that influence the adoption of new behaviours, rather than whether those behaviours are maintained, or the factors that influence maintenance. Despite billions of dollars of investment, very little research has considered whether people maintain river restoration projects, or the psychological factors that influence whether they do. The research reported in this thesis examined the problem of maintenance in three ways. Part One of the research, presented in a paper published in the Journal of River Restoration and Applications (Moore & Rutherfurd, 2017) involved reviewing literature about river restoration projects and maintenance. I found that projects often fail from lack of maintenance, and maintenance is related to the management arrangements used to implement projects. Further, the amount of maintenance required for projects to be successful varies. Some ‘self-sustaining’ projects are likely to reach a point where no further maintenance is required, while other ‘ongoing’ projects will require maintenance in perpetuity. Ongoing interventions, such as engaging landholders to exclude stock from grazing riverbanks, pose the greatest risk for effective river restoration if they are not maintained, and require robust management arrangements. Stock exclusion projects are often implemented through voluntary agreements with landholders. Government agencies subsidize the cost of constructing fencing, while landholders are legally required to maintain fencing, and stock exclusion, indefinitely. Projects are rarely monitored, and non-compliance is rarely enforced. In the absence of legal or financial incentives, the success of these projects relies on the motivation of individual landholders. Part Two of the research investigated how well stock exclusion projects, that are implemented through voluntary agreements with landholders in Victoria, Australia, are maintained. Previous empirical studies about stock exclusion suggest that these projects should improve the condition of riverbank vegetation. Only one study has evaluated whether landholders continue to exclude stock after river frontages have been fenced out. Ede (2011) assumed that intact fences are effective for stock exclusion, despite the fact that most, if not all, fences contain gates that could be used for stock access. Part Two examined the relationship between fence condition, stock access to riverbanks, and the condition of riverbank vegetation, including the abundance of native vegetation, native juvenile trees, and invasive species. A total of 231 sites with stock exclusion projects in three CMAs were examined (CMA A, CMA B and CMA C). The research found that sites in CMA A with stock exclusion contain more juvenile tree cover than sites with continued grazing. Sites in CMA C with stock exclusion contained more weeds than sites with continue grazing. Thus, landholders who exclude stock often do so without implementing effective weed management. However, the ecological benefits of stock exclusion projects may be obscured by the poor quality of some of the data collected by CMA staff. Part Two of the research also involved assessing whether landholders who graze do so in accordance with the Victorian grazing guidelines. Data about grazing regimes was collected by surveying those landholders involved in sites assessments. A total of 93 landholders completed usable surveys. It was found that while most landholders maintain fences, fence condition does not reflect actual stock access to riverbanks. Half of the landholders involved in the research continue to graze stock on riverbanks. Half of those landholders who continue to allow stock access to the riverbank follow unsustainable grazing regimes. Part Three of the research examined some factors that influence whether landholders maintain stock exclusion or continue grazing stock on the riverbank, including psychological factors and factors related to drought conditions. Environmental behaviours were classified as ‘continuous’ or ‘dynamic’ based on maintenance. This framework is presented in a paper published in Frontiers in Psychology: Environmental Psychology (Moore & Boldero, 2017). Continuous behaviours, such as recycling, involve the same activities for adoption and maintenance, and are influenced by cognitive factors, such as beliefs about social pressure to perform pro-environmental behaviour, known as social norms. Dynamic behaviours, such as excluding stock from grazing riverbanks, involve different activities for adoption and maintenance. While social norms may influence adoption, barriers related to cost, such as for weeding restoration sites (Ede & Hunt, 2008), may discourage landholders from performing maintenance. In the context of river restoration, social norms can influence landholders to engage in river restoration projects to exclude stock from grazing riverbanks. Social norms also influence people to adopt a range of environmental behaviours, including reducing energy consumption in homes, and recycling. Part Three examined the relationship between social norms, perceived constraints related to drought affectedness, and evidence of grazing. The study also examined factors that explain perceived drought affectedness, including actual drought severity, and the amount of income obtained from farm businesses. All 231 landholders who participated in Part Two of the thesis were sent a social survey containing items about social norms, including injunctive and descriptive social norms, and symbolic and instrumental social beliefs, perceptions of drought affectedness, and the amount of income obtained from farming. A total of 93 landholders completed usable surveys (40% return rate). The results of Part Three found that injunctive social norms were related to behaviour, while descriptive social norms were not; landholders did not appear to hold salient descriptive social norms. Injunctive norms about instrumental social beliefs were related to whether landholders continue to graze, while injunctive norms about symbolic social beliefs were not related to behaviour. Together, instrumental social norms and perceptions of drought affectedness explain behaviour better than either variable alone. Both drought severity and income were weakly correlated with perceptions, however together, these variables explained behaviour better than either alone. Overall, this thesis suggests that while stock exclusion projects are improving the vegetation condition of degraded riverbanks, too much grazing continues. As a result, vegetation is dominated by weeds, and less than half of the sites examined contain the recommended base-line amount of juvenile trees. Whether landholders maintain stock exclusion is explained by social norms and perceived drought affectedness. Perceptions are explained by actual drought severity and income. Voluntary agreements have been effective for engaging landholders to establish stock exclusion projects. To be effective over the long-term landholders must maintain stock exclusion indefinitely. Currently, the incentives to do so are inadequate for encouraging landholders to voluntarily maintain these ‘dynamic’ behaviours. Governments could encourage more effective maintenance by using drought relief funding to subsidize the cost of stock feed during drought conditions, and by facilitating income diversification. Future research could investigate whether these findings are unique to stock exclusion projects, or whether these are underlying problems associated with using voluntary instruments to encourage permanent behaviour change.
Keywordsriver restoration; environmental behaviour; maintenance; stock exclusion
- Click on "Export Reference in RIS Format" and choose "open with... Endnote".
- Click on "Export Reference in RIS Format". Login to Refworks, go to References => Import References