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Assessing community capacity for ecosystem management : Clayoquot Sound and Redberry Lake biosphere reserves



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Biosphere reserves are regions that are internationally recognized for their ecological significance and work towards ecosystem management. The concept of community capacity, as developed in the resource management and health promotion literatures, was applied to two such regions that were designated in 2000: Clayoquot Sound and Redberry Lake. The purpose of this comparative research was to better understand what constitutes the collective ability, or community capacity, these places have for fulfilling their functions as biosphere reserves. Community capacity is the collective mobilization of resources (ecological, economic/built, human and social capitals) for a specified goal. A mixed methods approach was taken. Self-assessments, both qualitative and quantitative, were used to determine community capacity in focus groups with biosphere reserve management, residents, and youth (grades 9-12). The results were compared to a statistics-based assessment of socioeconomic well-being. Semi-structured interviews for a related research project provided further insight. This comparative research made theoretical advancements by identifying key constituents of community capacity, including dimensions of the capitals and ‘mobilizers,’ or factors that motivate people to work for communal benefit. Mobilizers were found to be key drivers of the process of using and building community capacity. Four mobilizer categories were identified: the existence of, and changes to capital resources; individual traits; community consciousness; and, commitment. The practical implications of applying both qualitative and quantitative assessment methods were examined. It was found that there are several ways to conduct the socioeconomic assessment, and that adaptive methodological application is advised in research that attempts to be truly community-based—not just about, but for and with communities. It was found that, while it does not ensure a biosphere reserve’s success, economic capital plays a key role in activating other resources beyond a time frame of three years, where social capital can be the primary driver for activity. Despite substantial differences politically, socially, and economically, both regions experienced similar challenges that can be largely attributed to a general lack of understanding of the biosphere reserve concept, and a lack of consistent, core funding.



ecological capital, socioeconomic assessment, community-based research, mixed-methods, well-being, ecosystem management, community capacity, biosphere reserves, economic capital, human capital, social capital, self-assessments



Master of Arts (M.A.)






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