Collaborative deer management - ecology data, 2006-2009

This dataset consists of a survey of the vegetational impacts of deer in 20 forests as part of the NERC Rural Economy and Land Use (RELU) programme. It is widely accepted, at least in principle, that most kinds of natural resources are best handled collaboratively. Collaborative management avoids conflict and enhances the efficiency with which the resource is managed. However, simply knowing that collaboration is a good idea does not guarantee that collaboration can be achieved. In this project, the researchers have addressed issues of conflict and collaboration in ecological resource management using the example of wild deer in Britain. Deer are an excellent example since they highlight problems around ownership and because they offer both societal benefits and drawbacks. Wild deer are not owned, though the land they occupy is. As deer move around, they usually cross ownership boundaries and thus provoke potential conflicts between neighbouring owners who have differing management goals. Deer themselves are valued and a key component of the natural environment, but their feeding commonly limits or prevents woodland regeneration and can thus be harmful to ecological quality. Deer provide jobs but they also provoke traffic accidents. This study used a variety of methods from across the natural and social sciences, including choice experiments, semi-structured interviews with individuals and focus groups. It also incorporated the use of participatory GIS to map deer distributions and habitat preferences in conjunction with stakeholders. The study confirmed conventional wisdom about the importance of collaboration. However, it also showed that there were many barriers to achieving effective collaboration in practice, such as contrasting objectives, complex governance arrangements, power imbalances and personal relationships. Mechanisms for enhancing collaboration, such as incentives and incorporating deer within broader landscape management objectives, were examined. Though these proposals were worked out for the case of deer, they are likely to be applicable much more widely and should be considered in other cases of disputed or rapidly changing ecological resource management. This dataset consists of a survey of the vegetational impacts of deer in 20 forests. The interview and focus group transcripts, and the choice experiment datasets from this study are available at the UK Data Archive under study number 6545 (see online resources). Further documentation for this study may be found through the RELU Knowledge Portal and the project's ESRC funding award web page (see online resources).
Publication date: 2008-09-18