Type of Document Dissertation Author Watson, Kelly C Author's Email Address email@example.com URN etd-04142010-200038 Title Tupelo Forests and Honey Production along the Apalachicola River of Northwest Florida: Livelihood Preservation and Forest Conservation in a Changing Rural Landscape Degree Doctor of Philosophy Department Geography, Department of Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title Daniel Klooster Committee Co-Chair Tingting Zhao Committee Co-Chair Victor Mesev Committee Member Timothy Chapin University Representative Keywords
- Participatory Research
- Apalachicola River
- Political Ecology
- Tupelo Honey
- Non-Timber Forest Products
Date of Defense 2010-02-19 Availability unrestricted AbstractThis research is a case study of beekeepers, honey production, and land-use change in a rural area of Northwest Florida. The dense stands of tupelo trees that grow along the Apalachicola River and its tributaries make this region one of the only places in the world where tupelo honey is produced commercially. Tupelo honey production is an important regional industry and rural livelihood directly linked to the bottomland hardwood forests along the Apalachicola River floodplain, one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems in North America.
The role of environmental change along the Apalachicola River is pervasive in key discussions of the future of the tupelo honey industry. However, as my research reveals, environmental change in this region is sometimes natural, but often socially and politically induced, especially in the face of land use change and development. Complex social processes and historical contexts are often lost in the oversimplifications that shape the discourse of change in this region. Combining qualitative research with geo-spatial techniques, this research provides a rich understanding of how environmental change and socio-political and economic factors intersect and play out spatially to influence the use and access of forest resources. My results reveal the major issues facing tupelo honey producers are alterations to river hydrology, the impact of exotic species, suburbanization of the landscape, falling honey prices, and restrictive policies regarding access to public lands.
This research engages in broader conversations surrounding the challenges of understanding environmental change as a social process. Humans and biophysical environments continually interact with one another to create unique “socionatural” spaces. My research challenges geographers to rethink the importance of nature-society relations and the value of local knowledge in natural-resource management in a post-industrial context. For several decades, political ecologists have devoted their attention to issues of human-environment interactions primarily in the developing world. This case study demonstrates that cross-scale power struggles and conflicts of natural resource access are as relevant here as they are in the developing world.
Specifically, this case study of tupelo honey producers demonstrates the importance of incorporating local knowledge in natural resource conservation and management. While local knowledge often runs counter to the dominant discourses of governments and other powerful institutions, the value of this knowledge is becoming increasingly evident, as is the potential for local livelihoods to speak to environmental conservation. If forest conservation and livelihood preservation are to occur, it is important to bring the voices of forest-dependent communities, such as tupelo honey producers in Northwest Florida, to the forefront of conservation and management efforts.
This research adopts a participatory framework, working with beekeepers in the identification and analysis of the challenges they face, and how such obstacles may affect both the future of beekeeping and the future of the forest in this region. Thus, this is a project of great interest to the beekeepers themselves because they will use the knowledge generated not only to formulate more successful individual beekeeping strategies, but also to develop collective strategies in defense of a livelihood that supports the survival of a broader forest ecosystem and a unique, and perhaps fading, rural culture.
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