Managing diving impacts on reef ecosystems: Analysis of putative influences of motivations, marine life preferences and experience on divers' environmental perceptions
Ocean and Coastal Management
TREES - Tourism Research in Economic Environs and Society, North-West University, Locked Bag X6001, Potchefstroom, 2520 North-West, South Africa
Scuba diving is a growing form of tourism reflecting positively on the economy of coastal communities. However, any negative impacts associated with scuba diving need to be prevented to safeguard the critical ecosystem services provided by reefs. Studies have explored the behaviour of scuba divers by psychological and skill-related factors to formulate plans for the management of reefs and diving tourism. This study represents a contribution to the growing evidence concerning scuba divers' perceptions according to these factors. Scuba divers at Sodwana Bay, South Africa were interviewed on their diving motivations, excitement for marine life, experience, and perceptions of impacts, reef condition, and norms. It was hypothesised that motivations and marine life preferences had a significant relationship with scuba divers' perceptions and norms, and that experience mediated this relationship. Hypotheses were tested via structural equation modelling. Although motivations varied significantly according to diving experience, the hypotheses were not confirmed by the structural model. These findings highlight the importance of a stronger educational component across all diving specialisation levels, and emphasise the need to further research the potential links between psychological variables and behaviour in scuba divers. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.
Coastal communities; Ecosystem services; Environmental perceptions; Psychological variables; South Africa; Specialisation; Structural equation modelling; Structural models; Ecosystems; Model structures; Motivation; Reefs; Behavioral research; coral reef; habitat management; marine ecosystem; psychology; scuba diving; specialization; tourist behavior; KwaZulu-Natal; Sodwana Bay; South Africa