THE POLITICAL ECONOMY OF ECOLOGICAL RESEARCH: ANALYZING THE “TOTAL MAXIMUM DAILY LOAD” PROCESS IN THE UPPER MILL CREEK (CINCINNATI)
Recognition is growing that social systems are not external to ecosystems, but are a significant part of an integrated social-ecological system. This research developed an integrated analytic approach by incorporating broadly-accepted theory and models of policy decision processes (Advocacy Coalition Framework and Adaptive Cycle Framework) and knowledge processes (Knowledge Cycle), with models of ecosystem functioning. The usefulness of the integrated framework and models was evaluated through application to a social-ecological policy process for the Mill Creek (Cincinnati,OH). In this case, there is a clear social goal with a measurable ecological endpoint (achieve an Index of Biotic Integrity value of 40, if attainable), and a mandated method to achieve the goal (by lowering pollutant loads into the stream). The question asked in this case is: (1) were the available data and knowledge adequate; (2) were the models and knowledge “used” by the decisionmaker adequate; and (3) was the policy process adequate to produce outputs sufficient to attain the social goal? The decisionmaker’s data, when incorporated into an ecological model, were found adequate to predict the water quality response to various levels of pollutant reduction. The data supported a conclusion that attainment of the water quality standard (“attainment”) through the proposed TMDL elements was unlikely. Analysis of the knowledge and models “used” by the decisionmaker supported a conclusion that the knowledge search was not comprehensive and the decision support model does not predict water quality goals. However, the knowledge cited or included in policy documents was sufficient to know that attainment was unlikely through the pollutant loads proposed in the policy output. Predictions about the policy processes, use of knowledge and adequacy of outcomes were consistent with empirical findings derived from citation analysis and content analysis of relevant documents. The conclusion is that attainment in the Mill Creek is not politically feasible, given the context of the policy process.
School Location:USA - Ohio
Source Type:Master's Thesis
Keywords:total maximum daily load tmdl watershed ecological model decision making environmental policy clean water act index of biotic integrity advocacy coalition framework adaptive cycle nutrients use attainment
Date of Publication:01/01/2004