A Keyword Approach to Finding Common Ground in Community-Based Definitions of Human Well-Being

Last modified: 
December 13, 2019 - 8:09pm
Type: Journal Article
Year of publication: 2017
Date published: 11/2017
Authors: R. Fulford, I. Krauss, S. Yee, M. Russell
Journal title: Human Ecology
ISSN: 0300-7839

Ecosystem-based management involves the integration of ecosystem services and their human beneficiaries into decision making. This can occur at multiple scales; addressing global issues such as climate change down to local problems such as flood protection and maintaining water quality. At the local scale it can be challenging to achieve a consistent and sustainable outcome across multiple communities, particularly when they differ in resource availability and management priorities. A key requirement for consistent decision support at the community level is to identify common community objectives, as these can form the basis for readily transferable indices of ecosystem benefit and human well-being. We used a keyword-based approach to look for common terminology in community fundamental objectives as a basis for transferable indices of human well-being and then compared those commonalities to community demographics, location, and type. Analysis centered on strategic planning documents readily available from coastal communities in the conterminous United States. We examined strategic planning documents based on eight domains of human well-being, and found that Living Standards and Safety and Security were the most commonly addressed domains, and Health and Cultural Fulfillment were the least. In comparing communities, regional differences were observed in only one well-being domain, Safety and Security, while community type yielded significant differences in five of the eight domains examined. Community type differences followed an urban to rural trend with urban communities focusing on Education and Living Standards, and more rural communities focused on Social Cohesion and Leisure Time. Across all eight domains multivariate analysis suggested communities were distributed along two largely orthogonal gradients; one between Living Standards and Leisure Time and or Connection to Nature, and a second between Safety and Security and Social Priorities (Education/Health/Culture/Social Cohesion). Overall these findings demonstrate the use of automated keyword analysis for obtaining information from community strategic planning documents. Moreover, the results indicate measures and perceptions of well-being at the local scale differ by community type. This information could be used in management of ecosystem services and development of indices of community sustainability that are applicable to multiple communities with similar demographics, regional location, and type.

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