Coastal and inland wetland loss in Nova Scotia as a result of agricultural land conversion and ‘improvement’ presents problems. Nova Scotia faces a future climate that is wetter due to more frequent and severe storms. It is critical to understand how farmers and citizens perceive wetlands in order to motivate wetland restoration, which will improve farm and regional climate adaptability. This research has been funded by a 2011 SSHRC Research Development Fund grant at Dalhousie, and a SSHRC Insight Development Grant (2012-14), with the collaboration of wetland expert Dr John Brazner. This research comprised farmer and public opinion elements. This SSHRC also funded spinoff work on agricultural dykelands in the Bay of Fundy.

The farmer research has proceeded via regional case studies using in situ or visual prompts to elicit farmer perceptions of landscape. We began with a case study in Cumberland County, using photo-elicitation to explore farmer landscape perceptions and drivers of farm management behaviour, especially as related to climate change. It showed many farmers like and are restoring wetlands, but not for climate change (Sherren and Verstraten 2013). More recent case studies are using ecosystem goods and services as an explicit framework for analyis. A case study in the Musquodoboit Valley explored regulating ecosystem services, specifically the water management issues farmers are having and how they deal with them via their land management (Baskaran et al. 2015). A case study in the Annapolis Valley looked at freshwater wetlands, seeking to understand the services farmers perceive them as providing, and whether this differs by time of year or type of wetland (Greenland-Smith 2014). Using novel approaches to standardize farmer styles of expression, this work showed how different (and diverse) farmer values are to those generated from economic valuations (Greenland-Smith et al. 2016).

Research output

Greenland-Smith, S., Brazner, J, and Sherren, K. 2016. Farmer perceptions of wetlands; using social metrics as an alternative to ecosystem service valuation. Ecological Economics, 126, 58-69.

Baskaran, A. 2015. Water-related ecosystem services and water quality: Farmers perceptions and practices. MES thesis, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada.

Greenland-Smith, S. 2014. Farmer perceptions of wetland goods and services. MES thesis, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada.

Sherren, K., and Verstraten, C. 2013. What can photo-elicitation tell us about how Maritime farmers perceive wetlands as climate changes? Wetlands, Vol. 33, No. 1, pp. 65-81.

Research trainees

Christiane Verstraten comes from an established farming family in Cumberland County, and was a research assistant and analyst for the Cumberland County photo-elicitation study for her MREM summer internship and fall research project in 2011, funded by the SSHRC RDF. She stepped from Dalhousie into a role as a Research and Outreach Assistant at the Nova Scotia Woodlot Owners and Operators Association.

Simon Greenland-Smith, MES 2014, was fully funded by SSHRC to study farmer perceptions of wetlands, and has taken on an extension officer role for my ongoing farm biodiversity work. He began work with me earlier, as an undergraduate research intern transcribing interviews from the Cumberland County case study, after his Honours on riparian buffers on Nova Scotia farms.

Aiswarya Baskaran, MES 2015, was partially funded by SSHRC and by the Godsoe and Ward family scholarships at SRES, and moved from Dalhousie into community work in Toronto.