It is needed to know for protecting and it is needed to communicate for knowing: guidelines for designing and assessing wetland communication strategies

Original Article

It is needed to know for protecting and it is needed to communicate for knowing: guidelines for designing and assessing wetland communication strategies

*Corresponding author: Department of Pharmacy, Faculty of Health Sciences, University/Organisation: Universidad Cardenal Herrera-CEU, CEU Universities, Spain, Phone Number:  96 136 90 00, Email: isolis@uchceu.es

Abstract

In order to protect the wetlands’ biodiversity, international institutions make recommendations on activities of Communication, Education and Public Awareness (CEPA actions). The backgrounds of the ecosystem conservation include the stakeholders’ identification and communication strategy as a management part and strategic direction, when decisions in respect of the wetlands’ protection and conservation must be taken. The main aim of this work is to elaborate guidelines for designing and assessing wetland communication. The used method is to collect information and conduct a comparative study on international institutions’ recommendations, taking into account backgrounds on wetland management in the communication field. Finally, we prepare guidelines for designing, planning, implementing, monitoring and evaluating strategies of communication on wetland protection. These guidelines are based on the cited recommendations. In addition, we propose a questionnaire to implement the guidelines designed.

Keywords:Wetland communication; Biodiversity communication; Environmental Communication; Wetland management; CEPA actions

Introduction

The Ramsar Convention is the international point of reference on guidelines for the biodiversity conservation in the case of wetlands. More than 150 countries have joined the Convention as Contracting Parties. They have designated more than 1,900 wetlands around the world for including in the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance. Currently, the Ramsar Convention applies a very broad definition, covering all lakes (Figure 1) and rivers (Figure 2), underground aquifers, swamps and marshes (Figure 3), wet grasslands, peatlands, oases, estuaries, deltas and low tides, mangroves and other coastal areas, coral reefs, and artificial sites such as fishponds, rice paddies (Figure 4), reservoirs (Figure 5) and salt mines or salt flats.

 

 

(Figure 1)

(Figure 2)

(Figure 3)

 

(Figure 4)

(Figure 5)

The presence of lot of water is the main axis of wetlands. This feature requires an important fauna and flora adaptation. The result is a highly biodiverse and original ecosystem. Thus, the vegetation growing in these areas is very much specialised and depends of several factors. It is also variable in size, from only some square metres to a few square kilometres, depending on edaphic factors such as soil texture, concentration of cations and anions, or changes in saline concentration level and flooding period of wetland.

According to the Ramsar Information Note 7 published in 2015 on its website, in the 20th century, the global area of wetlands decreased between 64% and 71%. Most of wetlands as the Mediterranean wetlands are overexploited and degraded by different causes, such as geomorphological modifications, changes in land use and in climate, or the great exploitation of aquifers. These ecosystems have a long history of intense human impacts and more than half of their total area has been lost.  However, recommendations in order to encourage the conservation and sustainable management of wetlands exist, as Directive 92/43/EEC at European level, because of cited risks and loss of surface and biodiversity. Among priority conservation areas, coastal and marine ecosystems are one of the world’s most threatened and exploited ecosystems and they are recognised as providers of a wide range of ecosystem services.

In strategies for the biodiversity conservation, [1] proposed to go a step further on the use of social instruments. He raised the communication as a fundamental tool for achieving the awareness-raising objectives in order to involve the ordinary population in the conservation measures. Communication is to involve another of what one knows or has, and this acquires a relevant role in any environmental education strategy, which is basic in the field of environmental conservation.  The environmental education is the basis of social interaction aimed at training the population and their leaders to analyse and assess environmental conflicts debating and searching alternatives in the decision-making, which can solve or contribute to the solution of problems that affect environment. Callaghan commented on the need to use communication media and techniques in the environmental education field, also recommended by the biodiversity convention.

Traditionally, conservation experts highlight the importance of biodiversity, but they send their message without taking into account the interlocutor and before listening and receiving what society demands. This is one of the reasons why it is not possible to establish good communication between parts or actors, and it is not achieved a balance relationship between social needs and the objectives of environmental strategies. Environmental communication would greatly enhance this problem [2].

Achieving positive results from the implementation of environmental communication requires the continuous interaction between environment professionals and those of the communication, organising a work team to live together environmental problems, sharing their knowledge and putting their minds to the safeguard service of biodiversity and ecosystems. In this line, we present an article in which communication specialists and environment specialists have worked together to prepare a guide to communicate biodiversity in wetlands.

Knowing to conserve biodiversity

The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) says that in order to achieve greater participation with regarding the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity [3], it is necessary to promote understanding and dissemination of quality information through mass media. To this end, several International Organizations have developed education and public awareness programs on biodiversity conservation.

The European Union biodiversity strategy to 2020 says, “The active participation of civil society will be encouraged at all levels of implementation. Citizen science initiatives, for example, are a valuable tool for collecting quality data and mobilizing citizens to participate in the biodiversity conservation activities” [4]. However, according to the Eurobarometer ‘Attitudes towards biodiversity, November 2013, and the Special Eurobarometer 436 ‘Attitudes of Europeans towards biodiversity’, October 2015, the biodiversity knowledge level can be considered low in Europe. The information deficit detected highlights the need for improving communication and learning actions on biodiversity in the European Union. It is important to achieve increasing public awareness towards biodiversity and participation in the protection and conservation actions, in addition to increase the extent or quality of engagement of participants [5], because participation of Europeans in activities and projects aimed at preserving biodiversity is very low. For example, only 11% of the European citizens have occasionally collaborated in a fieldwork in a nature reserve.

International Recommendations on communication of wetland biodiversity

The wetland conservation recommendations from the Ramsar Convention include those concerning to communication oriented to awareness and participation. The Convention has adapted a system known as the CEPA actions. This model for Communication, Education and Public Awareness has been developed by the Comission on Education and Communication (CEC) from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) [6]. The guidelines for applying the CEPA actions to wetlands include, on the one hand, planning communication actions and the use of media and communication channels [7]. On the other, the list of target audiences of communication and education activities carried out in wetlands, in order to achieve that people is involved in the protection of biodiversity through awareness and participation [7]. In the European Union, Natura 2000 is the main European ecological network for conservation biodiversity areas. Its purpose is to ensure the long-term survival of species and habitats in Europe, helping to halt biodiversity loss. Natura 2000 brings together more than 26,000 protected areas in Europe. However, 73% of Europeans have never heard of it (Special Eurobarometer 436, 2015: 57). In 2004, the report entitled “LIFE-Nature: Communicating with stakeholders and the public generally. Best practice examples for Natura 2000” collected the best communication practices of Natura 2000 [8], This report cites tourism providers, recreational groups or other private businesses, opinion leaders and local politicians as stakeholders to communicate on Natura 2000. Other targets are public authorities, the public and conservation NGOs and other civil society groups [8] In addition, this report contains a complete list of suitable tools to communicate on nature conservation, distinguishing one-way or two-way flow of communication techniques and those than can be delivered directly or indirectly to the audience, as the media [8]. It also recommends the communication planning and design of a strategy including indicators for assessing actions [8] In our paper, we review the most important recommendations from cited organizations (Ramsar Convention, IUCN and UE) in relation to the protection of wetlands. Our main aim related with the recently theoretical reflections published on wetland management is to shape a useful guide for designing and / or evaluating communication activities in wetlands [9].

Method

Scientific literature on the role of communication in the conservation of wetlands

We review the latest scientific literature on wetlands from a communication viewpoint to check communication of these spaces in the strict sense. Based on backgrounds, we propose the assessment of communication in the context of its overall management, including communication with stakeholders because it is essential for involving social environment in policies of wetlands’ biodiversity conservation. We take account the WETwin Project that highlights the essential role of communication in the models designed for the overall management of wetlands, and presents the dialogue about the management options among stakeholder as beneficial to the management process[10-12]. Also, the Theseus approach for coastal protection is based on a participatory approach with end users and authorities as main stakeholders [13].In addition, other backgrounds as the Salinity Investment Framework (SIF3) designed to help environmental managers make better policy decisions recommend to establish trust and credibility with stakeholders, increasing scrutiny about sound decision making and public accountability[14].Other studies we consult are focused to identify stakeholders to improve wetlands’ protection, proposing new classifications for these publics [15]Others identify differences between the stakeholders’ perceptions and their behaviors [16]. Others include stakeholder’s preferences and multiple objectives to evaluate management options [17] In addition, others recommend an interdisciplinary work and stakeholders’ analysis towards the sustainability of social-ecological systems [18]. We also use backgrounds focused on proposing techniques for more effective communication and education to get better engagement and public awareness on wetlands’ conservation on the part of key stakeholders [19-20].

Comparative analysis from international guidelines for Communication, Education and Public Awareness actions in wetlands

We summarise this comparative analysis between CEPA model by IUCN [6] the Directives from Ramsar Convention [7] and the better practices from the Natura 2000 network compiled by European Union (EU Environment Directorate General, 2004) in two dimensions.

On the one hand, we compile the recommendations for the wetland communication strategy in four areas. 1) stakeholders or target audiences of the wetland; 2) the topics to communicate on wetland biodiversity, adding strictly environmental topics and cultural, social, economic and legislative topics; 3) educational and learning activities as well as participatory and awareness activities recommended to schedule; and 4) a list of available communication tools.

On the other hand, we compare the indicators to assess wetland communication from international guidelines, differentiating three aspects: 1) the involvement achieved in communication activities between stakeholders; 2) media coverage obtained; and 3) registered behaviors related to respect for biodiversity and infringements detected.

Design of guidelines for planning and evaluating communication in wetlands

We conduct a comparative analysis between CEPA model by IUCN [6], the Directives from Ramsar Convention [21] and the better practices from the Natura 2000 network compiled by European Union [21] The main aim is to design a guide for planning and evaluating the Communication Plan and Public Awareness about wetlands. From the comparative analysis results, we obtain the items for guidelines’ proposal, including international recommendations on communication, background on management of wetlands and communication and education techniques as well as techniques to encourage society participation, in order to facilitate the initial design of a communication strategy for wetlands. In addition, we elaborate a checklist or questionnaire based on our guidelines proposed. It is helpful to facilitate assessment of the communication strategy. Its implementation also provides data in order to reorient an existing communication strategy.

Results

Guidelines

In order to design the guidelines based on the previous comparative analysis, we divide the information into two parts (Figure 6).

One of them contains all aspects regarding to the communication strategy. The other includes indicators for assessing wetland communication. Consequently, the guide is divided in two parts based on the managing models of Public Relations for planning institutional communication [22,23] and taking RACE (Research, Action, Communication and Evaluation) model as reference for Communication and Public Relations[24-26].The first part (Table 1) contains the recommendations for the communication strategy, including stakeholders, topics, activities, scheduling and communication tools that must be used to raise awareness the society on importance of wetland conservation. The second part (Table 2) includes assessment tools and indicators for assessing the strategy effectiveness and reorienting it, if is necessary. There are three indicator types. They are stakeholder participation in communication activities; diffusion achieved using media, and, the last, effect on stakeholders and their conduct.

Checklist (assessment questionnaire)

A questionnaire produced from application of the guidelines criteria for planning and assessment of communication and awareness on wetlands (Tables 1 and 2) serves as a checklist for those wetlands that implement campaigns for the first time. Also, it enables us to evaluate these activities in wetlands where are performed, in order to expand and improve those already made.

This checklist or questionnaire consists of three parts:

– Part 1. Communication planning and design. Items 1 to 5.

– Part 2. Wetlands’ Communication Strategy (definition of stakeholders, thematic variety, types of activities and communication techniques). Items 6 to 10.

– Part 3. Indicators for assessing wetland communication (participation, dissemination and respect behaviors for biodiversity). Items 11 to 13.

The first block evaluates the existence of a communication plan in the wetland. When the plan already exists, several items are evaluated: if it is based on previous studies about needs on communication, education, awareness and stakeholder participation in wetland conservation; if it is integrated in the global wetland conservation strategy; and if it is based on recommendations from local, national and international institutions for wetland communication.

The second part of the checklist includes issues related to the topics communicated about the wetland, number and type of activities, as well as timing, target audience and channels or communication tools used. This part of the questionnaire includes the recommendations for the wetland communication strategy that we propose in the guidelines designed in this article (Table 1).

The third block assesses the population response because it allows to analyse participation data in the activities listed, coverage achieved by the media and other channels, and effects on respect behavior for the biodiversity from public that visit the wetland. This third section contains the indicators for evaluating communication of wetlands, also included in the guidelines designed (Table 2).

The checklist includes the following structure and questions:

Part 1. Communication planning and design: 

  1. Is there a specific plan for Communication, Education and Public Awareness in the wetland? (If the answer is NO, go to the question 6)
  1. Is the communication plan based on previous studies about needs on communication, education, awareness and stakeholder participation in wetland conservation? ¿In which of them?
  1. Who made the communication plan (position, area of expertise)? Are stakeholders and groups of interest of the wetland involved in it?
  1. Is the communication plan integrated in the global wetland conservation strategy?
  1. Is the communication plan based on recommendations from local, national and international institutions for wetland communication? (IUCN, Natura 2000, Ramsar Convention) Please, indicate in which of them.

Part 2. Wetlands’ Communication Strategy

  1. Number of Communication, Education and Public Awareness (CEPA) actions, and scheduling per month
  1. Type of CEPA actions (YES/NO and number)
  • Congresses, fairs
  • Lectures, conferences, roundtables, symposia
  • Courses,seminars, workshops
  • Meetings, debates, group discussions
  • Training programmes for environmental educators
  • Exhibitions
  • Activities in wetland education centres
  • Excursions, field visits, guided tours
  • Work camps with volunteers, fieldwork: planting, ringed, counts…
  • Awareness campaigns, promotions
  • Children’s Activities
  • Competitions, contests
  • Theatre, festivals, street animation…
  • Special events: World Wetlands Day, Open Days, Greendays…
  • Others (Please, indicate)
  1. Topics of the CEPA actions and number
  • Wetland values, benefits and wise uses
  • Wetland protection objectives
  • Different ecosystems of the wetland
  • Problematic of wetland ecosystems
  • Current status of the wetland surroundings
  • Problematic of the wetland surroundings
  • Species classification
  • Threatened or endangered species
  • Human behavior
  • Cultural issues
  • Natural History
  • Conservation of natural resources
  • Environmental Law
  • Sustainable development
  • Others (Please, indicate)
  1. Target audiences (between stakeholders) for communication activities (YES/NO)
  • European authorities and policy makers (environmental field, education, other)
  • National authorities and policy makers (environmental field, education, other)
  • Regional and Local authorities and policy makers (environmental field, education, other)
  • Justice administration
  • Security forces: police, civil guard, firemen, civil protection
  • National authorities for environmental-related conventions and agencies
  • Managers and technicians of protected areas / Wetland managers
  • Hunters
  • Irrigators and farmers
  • Breeders/Ranchers
  • Landowners
  • Industry and business: energy, environmental sector, construction, tourism and others
  • Tourists
  • Local population/Residents
  • Researchers / Ecology departments of universities, research institutes
  • Environment centers, zoos, aquaria, botanic gardens
  • Preschool and Primary Education
  • Secondary Education
  • University students
  • Educators and Teachers
  • Conservation and Environmental NGOs /Other civil society groups/ professional associations
  • Volunteers
  • Amateur sports persons / Recreational and other users (bird watchers, bikers, hikers, riders etc.)
  • Housewives, women
  • Local opinion leaders
  • Local media
  • National media
  1. Communication tools (YES/NO and number):
  • Content for Media: press releases, press conferences, interviews and reports management, number of media requests satisfied …
  • Advertising campaigns in mass media: advertising in newspapers or magazines, television and radio spots, billboards, banners…
  • Magazines and newsletters from the wetland, Comic Strips, cartoons and Tales…
  • Internet: websites, blogs
  • Online listing of expertise
  • Email: mailing, e-newsletters, e-mail networks / e-groups
  • Mobile telephony: SMS, MMS, apps
  • Social media profiles
  • Electronic resources and materials
  • Electronic photolibraries
  • Audiovisual materials: reportages, documentaries, advertising spots, DVD and CD presentations
  • Brand design, logo for print media, promotional materials, merchandising, posters, clothing.
  • Signs, posters
  • Material for exhibitions: models, posters, displays signs, panels, pictures, image banks.
  • Materials for visits: brochures, leaflets, flyers, guides, maps, audio guide.
  • Educational and training materials for courses, conferences.
  • Publications: books, reports, manuals, conference proceedings and lectures.
  • Merchandising: calendars, postcards, t-shirts,
  • Information points, service offices, traveling points (buses), door-to-door, suggestion boxes.

Part 3. Indicators for assessing wetland communication

  1. Participation data in the activities. Number of participants and number of visitors:
  • European authorities and policy makers (environmental field, education, other)
  • National authorities and policy makers (environmental field, education, other)
  • Regional and Local authorities and policy makers (environmental field, education, other)
  • Justice administration
  • Security forces: police, civil guard, firemen, civil protection
  • National authorities for environmental-related conventions and agencies
  • Managers and technicians of protected areas / Wetland managers
  • Hunters
  • Irrigators and farmers
  • Breeders/Ranchers
  • Landowners
  • Industry and business: energy, environmental sector, construction, tourism and others
  • Tourists
  • Local population/Residents
  • Researchers / Ecology departments of universities, research institutes
  • Environment centers, zoos, aquaria, botanic gardens
  • Preschool and Primary Education
  • Secondary Education
  • University students
  • Educators and Teachers
  • Conservation and Environmental NGOs /Other civil society groups/ professional associations
  • Volunteers
  • Amateur sports persons / Recreational and other users (bird watchers, bikers, hikers, riders etc.)
  • Housewives, women
  • Local opinion leaders
  • Local media
  • National media
  1. Dissemination and media coverage: 
  • Publicity in the media
  • Television
  • Radio
  • Press
  • On line media
  • Magazines
  • Potential audience in advertising campaigns
  • Number of edited materials
  • Number of visitors in websites
  • Opening rate for e-mails
  • Social media interactions
  • Number of projection of audiovisual materials
  • Merchandising sales
  • Number of querys in the information points
  1. Effects on behaviours of respect for biodiversity:

– Number and type of infringements reported

– Number and type of criminal offences reported

– Number and types of denouncements

– Evolution with regard to previous years

Conclusion

It is needed to know for protecting and it is needed to communicate for knowing. The main conclusion from this work is the importance of wetland communication for preserving theses ecosystems.

During the design of communicating guidelines we propose, we also come to some conclusions on wetland communication that we can sum it up in four principle ideas. Firstly, the international recommendations on communication of wetland biodiversity [21] highlight several essential dimensions. One of them involves identifying whom are wetland stakeholders and reaching all them. The second dimension involves the topics to communicate on wetlands. Another idea is related to schedule learning and awareness activities using a wide variety of communication tools. Topics, activities and tools included in the international recommendations are similar or complementary. Secondly, contributions in terms of indicators for assessing the communication effectiveness to achieve awareness are also complementary. Thirdly, backgrounds on wetland management agree on the importance of involving stakeholders in decision-making around wetlands with a correct communication strategy. If we want to preserve wetland biodiversity, we must communicate about it. And fourthly, it is possible to sum up all international recommendations in the guidelines proposed to design a communication strategy or to assess an existing one, and to reorient it where appropriate.

Nowadays, communication is fundamental in the conservation and protection strategies of ecosystems. The international organizations joined to safeguard the environment consider so. In this sense, the Ramsar convention and other international institutions for the protection and conservation of wetlands unanimously recommend using communication strategies in plans for their conservation. So, we propose a guide for assessing communication of wetlands that includes all international recommendations, adapting them to achieve an easy use and a real evaluation of wetland communication strategies with the goal being to know what and how is being communicated. For drawing up the guidelines, we have taken into acount all information gathered and the experience of our researchers on communication and specialists in ecosystem research. So, we can conclude that our proposal includes the appropriate characteristics to evaluate the communication plan of any wetland, in order to ensure that the population receives the appropriate information that promotes interest in the conservation and protection of wetlands.

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