Beach User Perception on the Economic and Ecological Importance of Sand Dunes at Pensacola Beach, Florida

Authors: Phillip Schmutz*, University of West Florida, Emily Harris, University of West Florida
Topics: Coastal and Marine, Human-Environment Geography, Environmental Perception
Keywords: Coastal Sand Dunes, Conservation, Tourism, Coastal Management, Florida
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Stones Throw 1 - Granite, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Tourism is a major economic driver in the United States, with beaches serving as a primary attraction. Beaches are lined with sand dunes, which are a valuable ecosystem because they offer services that coastal communities depend on; yet they are increasingly being destroyed by natural or anthropogenic causes. This makes it essential to better understand the disconnect between humans’ attitudes, awareness, and behavior towards the environment and collect information through surveys, in order to better understand public attitudes, perceptions, and expectations, and to help design management guidelines that include social needs and potential conflicts. Despite increasing interest in bottom-up, public-level management of coastal resources, previous research focuses primarily on exploring values of tourists or locals independent of the other. The goal of this research is to assess differences in the awareness of local residents and tourist on the economic and ecological importance of coastal sand dunes and their attitudes and behaviors towards dune management initiatives. A total of sixty surveys were conducted at various beach locations in Pensacola Beach, Florida. Results indicated that beach users, both local and tourist, understand the environmental value of coastal dunes, yet the different user groups showcased differing levels of their willingness to support dune management initiatives. Local residents showed a substantially higher propensity to support dune management both financially and through action.

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