The perceptions of social-ecological changes in Tarituba, a coastal village in southeastern Brazil

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Chimello de Oliveira, Luiz Eduardo
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Research in natural resources management (NRM) is, in its broadest sense, the study of the outcomes of the relationships between human beings and their environment. The purpose of this PhD thesis was to investigate individuals’ perceptions of their social-ecological relationships and possible changes in these relationships in a coastal village called Tarituba, in Paraty, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. During 161 days of participant observation, informal interviews were conducted from September 2010 to October 2011. The outcome of this qualitative investigation was used to analyze current methods, assumptions and concepts in three areas of the literature in NRM: ecosystem services, drivers of change, and participatory scenario planning, because they have recommended the inclusion of stakeholders' perception in their frameworks. This lead to three main findings, namely: (1) Individuals in Tarituba are active agents seeking provisions within their environments and not passive receivers of benefits and goods from nature, as tacitly assumed within much ecosystem services literature; (2) The analysis of research participants' verbal reports about changes in social and ecological domains revealed five intermediate categories, which were used to specify the allocation of perceived causes of changes into the categories of drivers of change from the literature; (3) The analysis of participatory scenario planning literature revealed that there is a need of an operational approach to perception in those studies, and the qualitative analysis of verbal reports could be a tool towards this operationalization. Despite the growing trend of considering stakeholders' perceptions in these areas of literature, the term perception has not been properly defined, which, along with methodological shortcomings identified, lead its use in exchange for terms like opinion and knowledge. The framework used in this study provided tools that may contribute to filling this gap in current NRM research and practice, as it may be adapted and refined in future research.
Perceptions, Ecosystem services, Drivers of change, Participatory scenario planning, Qualitative methods, Analysis of verbal reports
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