Assessing the Freshwater Conservation Potential of Terrestrial Protected Areas (2010)

Client Organization: 
The Nature Conservancy
Project Location : 
Northern Michigan
Summary of Project Idea: 

Historically, the conservation community has assumed that terrestrial protected area management will result in beneficial improvements to goals of freshwater conservation. However, as demonstrated by declining freshwater systems around the globe, this assumption may in fact be incorrect. This master's project seeks to determine the extent to which the management of terrestrial protected areas contributes to the realization of freshwater conservation in light of external influences. Our hypothesis is that the status of a catchment overrides management effort in the fulfillment of conservation goals. In order to evaluate the contribution of protected area management to freshwater systems, The master's project group analyzed key environmental attributes (hydrologic regime, water quality, energy regime, physical habitat, biotic composition, and connectivity) as components of a comprehensive approach to freshwater management. To characterize the impact of current management efforts, we developed a "KEA-Specific Management Score" for each key environmental Attribute. This was compared with associated catchment stressors and response variables. We compared these relationships for approximately ten PAs in northern Michigan.

SEAS Program Areas: 
Conservation Ecology (Aquatic Sciences, Terrestrial Ecosystems, and Conservation Biology)
Environmental Policy and Planning
Environmental Informatics
Sustainable Systems
Professional Career Development Benefits: 

By participating in this project, students will create knowledge of how management options affect conservation goals, and in so will contribute to a current gap in the understanding of the effects of protected areas contribution to freshwater conservation.  By reviewing the presence or absence of integrated basin management, the team will develop a method that could be represented elsewhere in the country, building a transferable skill set. 

Additionally, students will gain access to regional and organizational leadership at The Nature Conservancy and the World Wildlife Fund, yielding professional exposure and experience.  In creating the deliverable products, students will garner significant and relevant experience in the field of conservation. 

Identify expected products/deliverables: 

Analysis of trends in freshwater condition in relation to different management and policy landscapes.  Identification of attributes of management and policy that have beneficial impacts on freshwater habitat and biodiversity.  Approach for mapping and characterizing management and policy as they relate to freshwater conservation.  A journal article that provides a synthesis of findings to guide the management of protected areas and the broader basin to more effectively achieve freshwater conservation.

SEAS Faculty Advisor: 
Dave Allan and Allen Burton
Master Students Involved in Project: 
  • Peter Gamberg, MS Environmental Informatics
  • Colin Hume, MS Conservation Biology/Environmental Policy and Planning
  • Amy Samples, MS Environmental Policy and Planning/Aquatic Sciences
  • Sarah Neville, MS Environmental Policy and Planning
  • Drew Casey, MS Environmental Policy and Planning/Sustainable Systems
  • Dave Sena, MS Aquatic Sciences
Project Status: 
Past Project