“Take only photographs and leave only footprints”?: An experimental study of the impacts of underwater photographers on coral reef dive sites

Rouphael, Anthony B., and Inglis, Graeme J. (2001) “Take only photographs and leave only footprints”?: An experimental study of the impacts of underwater photographers on coral reef dive sites. Biological Conservation, 100 (3). pp. 281-287.

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Abstract

Impacts caused by recreational scuba diving on coralreefs vary widely among different dive locations and individual divers. Linear modelling was used to explore a range of individual and situational risk factors associated with divers who damaged corals in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Recreational divers were followed for 10–15 min, and all contacts with, and damage to corals were recorded. Information on the divesite, diving experience, gender, and use of an underwater camera were recorded. Thirty-two out of 214 divers (15%) damaged or broke corals, mostly by fin kicks (95%). Impacts were most likely to be caused by male divers, in the first 10 min of the dive, at sites with a large abundance of branching corals. Specialist underwaterphotographers caused more damage on average (1.6 breaks per 10 min) than divers without cameras (0.3 breaks per 10 min). To explore the effects of gender and use of a camera further, we issued single-use underwater cameras to 31 randomly chosen divers and compared their behaviour to a control group. Use of a camera had no influence on the rate or amount of damage caused by these naive photographers, but male divers were more likely to break corals and caused significantly more damage, on average, (1.4 breaks per 15 min) than female divers (0.3 breaks per 15 min). Variability in the amount of damage caused by divers in our sample reflected the very different underwater behaviours exhibited by specialist and non-specialist photographers, and male and female divers. Greater understanding of the causes of harmful behaviours by these groups will allow better targeting of on-site interpretative and cautionary information and may prove to be a more palatable management strategy than regulation of site use.

Item ID: 13129
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1873-2917
Keywords: coral reefs; environmental behaviour; gender differences; recreational impacts; scuba diving
Date Deposited: 13 Aug 2012 06:54
FoR Codes: 05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050299 Environmental Science and Management not elsewhere classified @ 51%
05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050204 Environmental Impact Assessment @ 49%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960808 Marine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 100%
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