Managerial perceptions and responses to climate change in Missouri state parks and historic sites
[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT REQUEST OF AUTHOR.] Climate change has been described as one of the greatest, long-term challenges facing modern society. Its impacts range from alteration of ecosystem structure and function to human health and welfare. Few studies have focused on the social aspects of climate change, and none on parks and protected areas, in the Midwest. The perceptions of park managers are an important, but overlooked dimension of climate change and outdoor recreation policy. This dissertation used a multi-method approach to examine, explore and explain the climate change perceptions of those employed at Missouri state parks and historic sites in year 2016. A total of 495 surveys were administered to MSP employees using online and mail methods, and 405 responded, yielding 82% response rate. A qualitative analysis was conducted with district park managers to gain a deeper understanding of system-wide responses to climate change. Spatial analysis was used to map the distribution of extreme weather events across Missouri in relation to vulnerability and resilience. This approach allowed for triangulation, thus increasing credibility. Findings from this study supported the hypothesized socio-demographic differences among climate change perceptions of park employees. Political orientation, gender, education and job title were significant with belief in climate change, concern about climate-related impacts, support for pro-environmental behavior and adaptation and trust in source of climate change information. Findings also revealed the influence of cognition, affect, concern, and other socio-cultural factors on climate change risk perceptions using hierarchical multiple regression analysis, accounting for 73% of the variance. This study identified and explained several important indicators for shaping personal, societal and place-based risk perceptions. Linear discriminant analysis was used for audience segmentation. This procedure resulted in six different groups (Alarmed, Concerned, Cautious, Disengaged, Doubtful, and Dismissive) characterized by their belief, behavior, policy preference, and issue engagement. Findings showed differences among park employees and highlighted the importance of audience segmentation for messaging climate change communication. Perceived vulnerability and resilience were collapsed into a 2X2 typology, and used to construct a 3-point continuum (1=high vulnerability / low resilience to 3=low vulnerability / high resilience). State park employees thought the system was more resilient and less vulnerable to climate change than what other indicators showed. A deductive qualitative approach was used to confirm and develop a conceptual climate change resilience model, linking theory with practice. The newly developed model described the process of recovery from climate-related impact within the state park system using resilience theory. Results of this study may be useful for environmental decision-making behavior, policy formation and adaptation strategy development within the park system, in addition to some important theoretical contributions.
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