Bridging the Gap: Exploring the potential for community-based watershed monitoring to enhance ecosystem health and watershed governance in Canada

2013-2014

Water, Economics, Governance, and Policy Network Grant

Watershed monitoring is an essential component of watershed management (1); however widespread federal and provincial decentralization efforts have resulted in reduced government funding for such monitoring (2,3). In response, communities are mobilizing to address this deficit in Canada by undertaking a practice called community-based watershed monitoring (CBWM). Although CBWM is being employed to address this gap, monitoring data collected by CBWM organizations remains underutilized by decision-makers in watershed governance (4). Moreover, CBWM organizations face significant challenges with knowledge exchange due to a lack of rigorous scientific protocols and high organizational turnover (5). At the same time, decision-makers are experiencing minimal capacity to utilize CBWM data due to restricted mandates and resources (6). Nonetheless, research suggests that communities significantly benefit from CBWM (7), however, less evidence exists to confirm effects of CBWM activities on ecosystem health (5) and there is scant literature about successful CBWM data integration (5). As a result, the purpose of the proposed research is two-fold: 1) to examine the socio-political and economic factors that support or constrain the utilization of CBWM data in decision-making; and 2) to explore the ecosystem health benefits of CBWM to support its increased use in multiple scales/jurisdictions of watershed management.