Are all rivers equal? The role of education in attitudes towards temporary and perennial rivers

Catherine Leigh, Kate Boersma, Mark Galatowitsch, Victoria Milner, Rachel Stubbington

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


Temporary rivers (TRs) are prevalent, biodiverse ecosystems yet often overlooked and underprotected. This may be because inadequate understanding of their ecosystem services leaves them undervalued by society. However, evidence of negative attitudes towards TRs is scant.
We investigated the strength and extent of negative attitudes by surveying undergraduate students from Australia, UK, and USA on their agreement (positive attitude) or disagreement (negative attitude) with statements about the ecosystem services, moral consideration, and protection of perennial and TRs. Students were surveyed at the start and end of teaching units covering environmental topics.
Disagreement with statements was uncommon (17% across all statements and surveys) and attitudes towards TRs were mostly positive. However, attitudes towards perennial rivers were more positive, particularly in comparison with non‐flowing TRs and with regard to their aesthetic value and recreational amenity. There were no significant differences in attitudes towards perennial and TRs in one teaching unit in Australia, and responses were more often more positive at the end of teaching units in the UK.
Our study indicates education can change attitudes. The overall positive response to statements may reflect underlying environmental awareness and pre‐existing interest of participants enrolled in environmental and biology degrees, but not necessarily specific knowledge of TRs. General environmental education across the wider community could improve attitudes towards TRs, particularly when they are not flowing or in regions where they are uncommon or inconspicuous, and could support positive protection measures and innovative, inclusive management.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)181-190
Number of pages10
JournalPeople and Nature
Issue number2
Early online date10 Apr 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2019


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