Global Forests and the Internet: Assessing the Reach and Usefulness of the "Forest Conservation Portal"
A Ph.D. dissertation by Dr. Glen Barry
December 2003

This is the download page for Glen Barry's recently accepted Ph.D. dissertation in the Land Resources program of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The document is in .pdf format and is approximately 1 mb in size.



This research describes the reach and usefulness of an Internet portal designed to provide information for conservationists. The “Forest Conservation Portal” has been designed, developed and maintained by the researcher as a case study over nearly a decade. This Internet site has been evaluated using computer logs, surveys administered via email and the World Wide Web, and analysis of linkages with other web sites. The site seeks to educate users about why and how to reduce forest loss. Deforestation and forest diminishment, particularly in the relatively few remaining large forest wildernesses, is an important global environmental issue. This has informed the intent, concept, purpose, messages, and other attributes of the design and development of a special type of Internet site called a portal.

Data from approximately 1,000 surveys and 3.4 million site visits were collected and analyzed to describe site users and evaluate perceptions of the site. Over a period of two years and four months, visitors generated 12.7 million page views and 30.1 million hits. Survey results indicate 88% (+/- 2%) of Portal users were either very or somewhat satisfied with the Portal. The mean visit length was 11 minutes and 23 seconds, with a median visit length of 2 minutes and 29 seconds. At least two-thirds of the visits originated from the United States, though some sixty-three countries appeared in the survey results. Approximately one in six Portal site visitors returned at least one more time.

Observation on the diversity of stakeholder groups using the portal, the volume of information distributed, geographic distribution of Forest Conservation Portal users, high linkage to the Portal from other sites and search engines, and comparisons with other sites indicate high levels of reach and usefulness. Users exhibit a high level of concern with forest conservation, showing that the Forest Conservation Portal’s efforts are reaching their intended target audience of forest conservation professionals and others with a strong interest in the subject.

This study has detailed the elements of one particular persuasive communication campaign on behalf of forests that has achieved appreciable reach and perceptions of usefulness amongst its users. The Forest Conservation Portal was found to be playing the role of a network hub to the forest conservation community. Results indicate there is a large audience for forest conservation information and the Internet has potential to be used as a tool to facilitate environmental conservation.

Keywords: forest conservation, rainforest protection, deforestation, Internet, advocacy, portal, persuasive communication campaigns

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