Managing for Ecosystem Resilience in Fathom Five National Marine Park, Lake Huron, Canada
Parker, Scott Robert
MetadataShow full item record
Protected areas are considered to be the cornerstone of biodiversity conservation strategies and are valued sources of human well-being and ecosystem services. Yet they are not immune to the unprecedented impacts being felt worldwide. As an example, increased human activity, including development, transport of invasive species, and contributions to climate change, are transforming protected areas within the Laurentian Great Lakes into new and novel ecosystems. It is in this context of uncertainty that I explored the practice of managing for resilience. Canada’s first national marine conservation area, Fathom Five National Marine Park in Lake Huron, functioned as the study area. Besides profound and complex ecosystem change, Fathom Five is also experiencing governance challenges in the form of tangled responsibilities and issues of legitimacy. The resilience-based approach recommended elements that strengthened the capacity of the park to cope with and recover from disturbance and maintain its defining structures, functions, and feedbacks. This included a reduction of vulnerabilities (e.g., limit exposure to coastal fragmentation, manage disturbance regimes, and maintain functional and response diversity), an increase in adaptability (e.g., need to foster social learning, innovation, and improved governance structures), and an ability to navigate change (e.g., better express desired state, identify thresholds, and influence transformations), within established management practices. More specifically, methods to make spatial planning and monitoring more operational and resilience-based, were developed. For spatial planning, the decision-support tool Marxan with Zones was utilized and demonstrated how themes of representivity, replication, and connectivity could be applied in a resilience-based zoning context. For monitoring, a multivariate distance-based control chart method was developed to detect a decrease in resilience of the parks coastal wetland fish communities. Although an increase in variability was observed, a regime shift was not reported during the years investigated (2005-2012). In summary, the thesis provided an original contribution to science by examining the uncertainties and complexities facing a freshwater protected area and reframing practical conservation solutions through a resilience lens.