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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Historical dynamics of ecosystem services and their social-ecological drivers in British Columbia, Canada Sutherland, Ira James


Ecosystem services (ES), such as timber, clean water, and nature-based recreation, are co-produced through social and ecological systems that interact at a range of scales. The patterns and drivers of ES are therefore complex, and research is needed to clarify ES dynamics and articulate how land management institutions can adaptively steward ES through an uncertain future. The aim of this dissertation was to analyze how ES have changed over the past century in British Columbia (BC), Canada, and to identify the social-ecological and institutional drivers of these changes. In Chapter 2, I observed through qualitative analysis that persistent institutional structures (e.g., colonial power structures) and functions (e.g., policies) have constrained institutional response to address ecological challenges. Meanwhile, ecological monitoring has acted as a feedback, at times, to foster institutional change and guide more effective landscape management responses. In Chapter 3, I described the data reconstructions I used to monitor the flows and demand of 12 ES across six regions of BC over the past century. In Chapter 4, I used breakpoint analysis to detect abrupt changes in these 12 ES, characterize their overall patterns, and trace possible social-ecological causes. I found that abrupt changes and non-linear trajectories were the norm (77% of ES time series), a finding that challenges prevailing paradigms that view ES as static or monotonically declining. In Chapter 5, I used Granger causality analysis to assess how well annual ES demand (i.e., the amount desired by people) predicts changes in annual ES flows (i.e., the amount of ES produced) and vice-versa. ES demand historically helped predict changes in ES flows, but this relationship has decreased over time or switched direction such that ES flows increasingly drive ES demand, which may reflect rising scarcity in ES supply. Overall, this research has elucidated complex long-term temporal dynamics in ES, tested novel methods for monitoring the social-ecological drivers of ES, and provided strategic recommendations for institutions to maintain ES through time. By leveraging a historical systems approach, I have contributed toward an integrated theory of social-ecological ES dynamics and how land management institutions can navigate complexity to maintain ES.

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