Quantifying local coastal stewardship reveals motivations, models and engagement strategies
The human footprint on earth is now so great that we must become environmental stewards. To encourage stewardship and achieve better conservation outcomes, research is needed to connect practice with sound theory, and to empirically measure stewardship so we can identify its predictors and motivators.
In this study, we use mixed methods to develop a new quantitative indicator for local environmental stewardship in a coastal context. We interviewed 111 people in eastern Australia about their knowledge and use of the coast and extracted information on seven generalised stewardship actions. We combined these into a single indicator which allowed us to evaluate and compare stewardship levels between participants and develop quantitative models.
We found that stewardship was predicted by four traits: attraction to marine wildlife, self-identifying as local, size of local social network, and norms regarding informal enforcement. High-stewardship individuals exhibited eco-centric and anthropocentric worldviews and were motivated by a combination of intrinsic and extrinsic factors. We combined these with stewardship actions in a refined model which highlights the importance of people, policy and place in environmental stewardship.
We believe this is the first study to quantify stewardship behaviour and its motivating factors in a broad social-ecological context spanning both terrestrial and marine realms. Our research allows stewardship to be measured, modelled and analysed via a transferable indicator. This enables a deeper understanding of local environmental stewardship and the factors that predict and motivate it and allows us to propose practical strategies to engage people to improve stewardship and conservation outcomes.