Promoting resiliency through socio-ecological management, advocacy, and stewardship of Austin's creeks
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How do managers, stewards, advocates, and other stakeholders promote the ecology of creeks in Austin, TX while also supporting a creek’s cultural, social, economic, and historical values? This study uses mixed-methods to analyze how practitioners/managers, creek users/stewards, and advocates understand the multiple values of urban creeks in Austin. Practitioners and managers conceptualize creeks within an ecological resilience framework. Most recognized the importance of integrating social concerns into ecological management but fewer actually implemented consideration of social issues into their work. Many respondents actually saw creek users as a barrier to ecological resilience. A majority of creek users surveyed perceived creeks to have lower health than indicated by measured ecological scores; supporting the idea that perceptions are influenced by aesthetics and functioning ecosystems are not always the most aesthetically pleasing in terms of human preferences. Comparing the values of users and managers revealed three different dynamics: fully aligned values and motivations; partially aligned - values aligned, motivations misaligned; and, conflicted values. The advocate’s role is to mediate between users and managers when values are partially aligned or conflicted. A resilient and integrated socio-ecological management system is one that understands concepts of ecology and integrates social and cultural contexts into the process and metrics. Applying a gradient approach allows for an understanding of the dynamic intersection of ecological, social, cultural, economic, and historical values of creeks in Austin and promotes resiliency across and between social and ecological systems. The gradient approach is a context-dependent method for defining values in specific scenarios. Understanding the holistic value of creeks in Austin will allow more residents to connect with these systems and become more responsible stewards; and, will allow managers and advocates to incorporate socio-ecological functioning metrics into a system that currently only measures ecological performance.