Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Oceanography and Coastal Sciences

First Advisor

Irving A. Mendelssohn

Second Advisor

Margaret A. Reams


Recognition that the interaction of people and nature is implicit in every environmental problem has increased over the last century. Yet, solutions to environmental problems are impeded by uncertainty concerning the importance of socioeconomic and political conditions in dealing with environmental issues. The development of interdisciplinary management models is necessary in order to address both the biological and social causes of environmental degradation. Protection of wetland systems varies among both nations and US. states. This variation provides a unique opportunity to explore the hypothesis that socioeconomic, political and environmental variables are critical influences on wetland protection. Structural equation modeling and logistic regression were used to identify the effects of social, economic, political and environmental variables on the level of wetland protection. Wetland management outcome data were used to evaluate the success of wetland programs in the U.S. State and nation data supported the hypothesis that local conditions influence wetland management. At the national level, 57 percent of the variation in wetland protection could be explained by five predictor variables: social and economic capital, environmental and political characteristics and land use pressure. Social capital (i.e. education) was found to have the greatest influence on wetland protection overall. At the state level, environmental groups (p < 0.005) and the importance of fisheries and industry (p < 0.005) increased the likelihood of a strong wetland program, while increased population density (p < 0.15) had the opposite effect. The collection of outcome data for wetland programs suggests that monitoring and evaluation is spotty at best, and a set of indicators are suggested that would allow comparisons between states. These find argue for management approaches that are both responsive to local condition, and are adaptive by integrating socioeconomic trends into decision-making processes. Overall, a multi-disciplinary approach to environmental management leads to the recognition of a range of factors influencing management actions and outcomes suggesting an expanded range and flexibility of opportunities for intervention. The results of this research argue that the issue of wetland protection is a compelling example of how a combination of social, political, economic and environmental factors can serve as important elements in environmental management and conservation.