Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Environmental Studies (MES)


Geography & Environmental Studies


Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

D. Scott Slocombe

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


Ecosystem management is an integrative, cooperative, adaptive approach to resource management that has evolved in response to the growing number of environmental and resource problems over the past several decades. One such problem, the threat to the world’s biodiversity, may be attributed to the destruction, degradation, and fragmentation of habitat resulting from the expanding human population, and the inability to set aside in strict nature reserves, sufficient habitat for wide-ranging mammals and fully functioning ecosystems. The Greater Park Ecosystem concept may be seen as the embodiment of ecosystem management in national parks and a response to the threat to biodiversity. A major challenge to effective implementation of such an idea is defining the boundaries of the management unit or ecosystem. Delineation of these boundaries may be guided by principles of protected area design, as well as by previous efforts to delineate ecosystem boundaries. However, any approach used to delineate the boundaries of a Greater Park Ecosystem should be consistent with the objectives and principles of ecosystem management, both its ecological (substantive) and sociopolitical (process) aspects. In this study an evaluation of previous efforts to delineate ecosystem boundaries was carried out. It concluded, based on criteria drawn from the literature on ecosystem management, national parks management, and protected area design, that no single approach adequately addressed the problem of protecting native biological diversity in national parks, in the face of increasing pressures from beyond the park boundaries. The approach suggested in this study addresses substantive ecological concerns as well as the process of boundary delineation itself. It considers abiotic, biotic, and cultural features and processes of the park region, particularly those that traverse official park boundaries. The location of significant and/or representative features and processes guides the preliminary placement of the Greater Park Ecosystem boundary, which will likely change with input from the various stakeholders. The suggested approach addresses the process of boundary delineation by encouraging participation of all stakeholders in the region, fostering a cooperative approach among competing resource users, and ensuring that institutional structures are appropriate. An overriding consideration is that the final boundaries encompass an area that is sufficiently large to support a minimum viable population of the most space-demanding species in the region. The substantive aspects of this suggested approach were illustrated in this study with reference to Gros Morne National Park in western Newfoundland. The resulting Greater Gros Morne Ecosystem boundaries were compared to several other alternatives which were based on the boundaries of the region’s ecoregions, physiographic regions, and the Western Newfoundland Model Forest. The suggested boundaries were shown to be superior to the other alternatives in terms of significant habitat characteristics, human land use, watershed integrity as well as several other measures. A preliminary assessment of the process components of the suggested approach, again with respect to Gros Morne National Park, revealed that the agencies responsible for resource management in Newfoundland appear to be moving toward an ecosystem management philosophy. The need for greater integration, cooperation, and adaptability has been widely acknowledged. From the general public, there appears to be more appreciation of the consequences of poor resource management, due primarily to the collapse of the Northern cod fishery, greater acceptance of new ideas, and a demand for more input from local groups and individuals. Despite this, the lack of alternative employment opportunities outside the extractive resource sector, and the long history of unrestricted local resource use remain barriers to widespread acceptance of the Greater Gros Morne Ecosystem concept.

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