Mobilizing values: Using perceptions of barachois ponds in Cape Breton to advance informed management
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Barachois ponds or tidal lagoons are highly dynamic, incredibly productive, yet poorly understood wetlands across Nova Scotia, Canada. Defined by the partial or complete enclosure of a sand or gravel barrier forming a pond, they are saline when open to the sea, becoming fresh-water environments if fully enclosed. They form mosaic landscapes and are critical habitats, nesting sites, and feeding grounds for migrating shore birds and mammals. Barachois ponds are highly valued for their ecosystem services such as natural harbours, oyster aquaculture, and simple charm. Yet commonly applied environmental triggers for management, such as freshwater and saltwater for distinguishing between provincial and federal jurisdiction, become obscured in brackish water systems that shift constantly between stable states. Negative impacts to barachois ponds occur at the watershed scale, yet uncoordinated land-use policies across municipalities and First Nations Reserve lands exacerbate these impacts. To advance informed decision-making on the management of barachois ponds, perspectives from 33 participants across five stakeholder groups including academia, government, industry, local, and non-governmental organizations, are revealed using Q-methodology mixed-methods. Resulting in the unearthing of four dominant perspectives: The Leave-Them-Be Conservationists (1-LTBC); The Sustainable Developers (2-SD); The Management Reformists (3-MR); and The Science-Based Conservationists (4-SBC). Further analysis and interpretation of data and perspectives uncovered six key issues for reaching effective management of barachois pond ecosystems: 1) An adaptation of Wetland Ecological Services Protocol for Atlantic Canada (WESP-AC) is suggested for barachois ponds in Cape Breton; 2) To populate the provincial wetland inventory through the development of a comprehensive sub-classification system for barachois ponds; 3) To create robust social and cultural importance criteria for designating Wetlands of Special Significance and provide greater opportunities for input; 4) To require alteration approvals for barachois ponds be screened by more than minimum size requirements; 5) To coordinate integrated management at the watershed-scale by enacting land-use planning policies across relevant jurisdictions and promoting cross-sectoral communication; and lastly, 6) To increase environmental education initiatives around barachois ponds.