Toryn Whitehead

Thesis Title:

Planning for extirpated species coexistence in Scotland: A shifting baseline syndrome perspective


Co-occurring with the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration and growing support for a nature positive vision for Scotland, the reintroduction of extirpated keystone species (such as beavers, wild boars, lynxes, and wolves) has been flagged as a powerful intervention to combat the biodiversity crisis by conservation NGOs. But efforts to reintroduce these species are controversial and highly contested, with the competing values and objectives of stakeholders often unable to find common ground. One reason for this could be shifting baseline syndrome (SBS), which refers to the unconscious, gradual change in the accepted norms for the condition of the environment across generations and over the course of individual lives. This thesis will explore differing perceptions of extirpated species and the capacity to coexist with them in Scotland from a SBS perspective. It consists of three research strands – i) assess how the ‘extinction of experience’ influences perceptions and support for conservation action for large carnivores in Scotland where they are extinct and Spain where they are extant; ii) investigate traditionally pastoral landscapes in Knapdale and Tayvallich at different stages of cohabitation with beavers: uninterrupted presence, recent recolonisation and expected return; iii) work with Highlands Rewilding and the Drumnadrochit community to co-develop a management strategy for wild boar which integrates local values and objectives for the future of the landscape. This thesis will be done in collaboration with local interest groups at their various territories across Scotland and Spain using quantitative, qualitative, and arts-based research methods. Subsequently, this thesis will develop novel and innovative thinking about how visions for the Scottish landscape, with or without different extirpated species, could help achieve livelihood, biodiversity, and carbon aspirations.

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First Supervisor:

Prof Terry Dawson


Pathway 9: Political Ecology, Energy & Environmental Health (PEEH)