Forgotten landscapes: Public attitudes and perceptions of coastal saltmarshes

McKinley, EmmaPagès, Jordi F.Ballinger, Rhoda C.Beaumont, Nicola. Ocean and Coastal Management 187 : 105117 (2020) DIGITAL CSIC

As the field of public perceptions research continues to grow alongside an increasing recognition of the importance of understanding the complex interactions between society and the natural environment, this needs to consider all types of ecosystem, habitat and species. Although interest in public perceptions towards the global seas and coasts is increasing, the field is dominated by research focused on charismatic environments and species (e.g. coral reefs or marine mammals), and specific activities or human interactions with the seas and/or coasts (e. g. beach use, marine renewable energy). Whilst there has been some research on beaches and sand dunes, this is the first discrete piece of research which evaluates public views on the less ‘attractive’ coastal fringe environments, such as saltmarshes or mudflats, particularly in temperate regions. This paper presents the findings of a national survey (n ¼ 1136) that aimed to understand public awareness and attitudes towards Welsh saltmarshes, and the ecosystem services and benefits derived from such systems. Through the questionnaire, we found limited public awareness, and a high amount of uncertainty, associated with saltmarshes and their societal benefits, indicating a need to foster and enhance current levels of public knowledge and understanding of saltmarshes, and their role within the wider coastal landscape. The influence of a range of respondent characteristics on perceptions. Given the position of salt marshes at the land-sea interface, the myriad of socio-ecological interactions they experience, and ongoing efforts to develop effective complementary marine and land-based planning and management, it is increasingly apparent that understanding public perceptions towards saltmarshes is crucial. This study contributes to the evidence base of public attitudes for the more commonly under-valued coastal fringe environments, such as saltmarshes.