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Contribution of stakeholder perceptions to managing aquatic environments

The how and why of mobilising stakeholder perceptionsfor management of aquatic environments

Environmental managers work to promote, conserve and restore environments. However, any efforts towardrational management must be based on previously acquired knowledge on not only a given environment (e.g.what is an aquatic ecosystem and how does it function?), but also on the people and societies living nearby.This is because all environmental work takes place in a given cultural and social context. The formulation andimplementation of environmental projects generally implies the coordination of individuals and groups of peoplethat must work together to solve a given problem. When these stakeholders make decisions and take action,it is essentially on the basis of their knowledge of the environment. Management is therefore a question ofknowledge and, above all, of the diversity of knowledge. But what is meant by knowledge on the environment?
Knowledge is acquired via the senses. Perception is defined as "all the mechanisms and processes by which anorganism gains knowledge on its environment and the world on the basis of information processed by its senses"(Bonnet et al. 1989, p. 3). For example, the sight of a pond, the croaking of frogs and the smell of mud inform aperson that they are most likely near a marsh (see Figure 1). Perception consists of complex information processinginvolving both automatic functions, based on sensory reflexes, and other, more controlled functions,based on cognitive activities. The results of scientific research increasingly show that perception does notproduce an instantaneous image of the world (Barrow and Tenenbaum, 1986). Pre-existing cognitive models(knowledge, expectations, past experience, motivations) contribute to making sense of the sensory input.In the previous example, the person knows that they are near a marsh because they have already encounteredthat type of environment and it is linked in their mind to the "marsh" concept. Similarly, bird songs and lappingwater are above all sensory stimuli, but they are also closely linked to the notions of nature and calm, they evokepeacefulness.

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  Front cover   2  3  4
  Authors & contributors
  Foreword, Preface, Abstract

Identifying stakeholders and their expectations

Who should be surveyed and why?
Techniques used to study the perceptions of aquatic environments
Practical use of knowledge of the perceptions of aquatic environments


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Learning more about the history ofthe connections between societiesand aquatic environments

Using history to develop a territorial diagnosis
Contribution of history to projects and development work
For which management purposes can history be useful?


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Questioning and assessing management practices

Why study public perceptions of a project?n
Why characterise the perceptions of aquatic environments affected by projects?


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The Bourbre River
The Sèvre Nantaise River
Development agency for the Vilaine River basin
The Rhône River
The Furan River
The Calavon-Coulon River basin
The Grand Lyon urban area
A consulting firm


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  Delphine Loupsans,
French Biodiversity Agency