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Australian National University (2021)

Understanding the acceptability of fuel management strategies used to reduce wildfire risk in Australia

Mylek, Melinda

Titre : Understanding the acceptability of fuel management strategies used to reduce wildfire risk in Australia

Auteur : Mylek, Melinda

Université de soutenance : Australian National University

Grade : Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) 2021

Description
Wildfires commonly cause social, economic and environmental impacts in Australia ; however, fuel management to reduce wildfire risk often attracts controversy. This thesis examines acceptability of managing fuel in Australia, the extent to which what people think and how they structure their thoughts about fuel management predicts acceptability, and what this means for communication about fuel management. Acceptability of three fuel management strategies (prescribed burning, mechanical thinning and livestock grazing) was explored through 24 qualitative interviews and a survey of 488 residents living in and around the Australian Capital Territory ; and an Australia-wide survey of 4390 residents. My first question asked how acceptable is the use of different fuel management strategies in Australia ? With little published on acceptability of fuel management in Australia, this was an essential precursor to exploring factors predicting acceptability. While my findings show 66% or more support use of all three strategies, most did not think complexly about fuel management. These views are therefore susceptible to change and may lack long-term stability. My second question asked to what extent do commonly theorised factors influence acceptability of different fuel management strategies in Australia ? Consistent with studies in other regions, acceptability was higher for people who trusted those managing fuel, who had high self-rated knowledge about fuel management, and who felt fuel management had more positive than negative impacts. Past experiences of wildfire, perceptions of wildfire risk, length of time since experiencing a wildfire, and socio-demographic factors were not strong predictors. I drew on Integrative Complexity Theory and other information processing theories to examine my third question : how is acceptability influenced by the way people structure their thinking about fuel management ? Lower integrative complexity (IC) predicted more extreme attitudes (whether for or against fuel management), while higher IC predicted more moderate, stable attitudes, which is ideal in planning and implementing long-term strategies like fuel management. People had higher IC for prescribed burning than grazing or mechanical thinning, likely reflecting higher familiarity with this common practice, and greater exposure to complex information about its use.

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Page publiée le 8 novembre 2021