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Journal of Coastal Conservation

, Volume 21, Issue 1, pp 63–83 | Cite as

Sargassum on Santa Rosa Island, Florida: faunal use and beachgoer perception

  • Julie Ann Schultz Schiro
  • Klaus J. Meyer-Arendt
  • Sherry K. Schneider
Article

Abstract

The yearly influx of Sargassum onto the beaches of northwest Florida is considered a nuisance to some and a necessity to others. In Pensacola Beach, the Santa Rosa Island Authority rakes the wrack with mechanical beach cleaners to improve the aesthetic quality for beachgoers. The purpose of this study was three-fold: to evaluate the local faunal use of Sargassum wrack, to gauge public perception of Sargassum on the beach, and to test whether public perception of the beauty of the beach, the necessity of raking, and the likelihood of visiting could be influenced by a simple educational sign. A two-part methodology consisted of 1) systematic observation of faunal use, and 2) interviews of 200 beachgoers via a detailed pre-post/post only public use survey. Results showed that 11 of the 22 species of shorebirds documented, including two uncommon migrants, were observed using Sargassum wrack to forage, rest, and hide. Public survey results demonstrated that although beachgoers generally considered themselves to be “ecofriendly”, their perceptions of Sargassum wrack can be positively influenced through environmental education such as informative signage on the beach. In conclusion, Sargassum wrack provides valuable additional habitat to shorebirds and other critters, and that leaving the beach wrack to naturally become part of the ecosystem would not deter most beachgoers (70%) from visiting Pensacola Beach. This research contributes valuable information to coastal managers and other stakeholders for improved ecosystem protection and management.

Keywords

Sargassum Shorebirds Beach survey Beach management 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Independent ScholarPensacolaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Earth & Environmental SciencesUniversity of West FloridaPensacolaUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyUniversity of West FloridaPensacolaUSA

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