Quotas regulation is necessary but not sufficient to mitigate the impact of SCUBA diving in a highly visited marine protected area

Antonio Calò, Antonio Calò, Ramón Hernandez-Andreu, José Manuel Pereñiguez, José Antonio García-Charton

Risultato della ricerca: Articlepeer review

Abstract

When effectively managed, Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) can produce wide ecosystem benefits that can foster, directly and indirectly, local economies. Tourism is one of the sectors mainly benefited by the effect of conservation. SCUBA diving represents an important tourism activity, especially in the context of MPAs, where it is one of the few activities often fostered rather than limited, for its capacity to integrate environmental and socio-economic sustainability. However, SCUBA diving can also produce negative impacts on the environment when tourism frequentation exceeds a sustainable threshold, these potentially generating negative effects on the sector itself. In this study, we (1) investigated the impact of SCUBA diving in one of the most frequented diving areas of the Mediterranean Sea (Cabo de Palos - Islas Hormigas marine reserve), and (2) assessed the potential benefits over time related to the adoption of a regulation change for the diving activity (i.e., formally adoption of diving quotas). Specifically, we compared demographic (density of alive and dead colonies) and morphometric (height, width and complexity) characteristics of the false coral (Myriapora truncata) between dived and fully protected (non-dived) locations over four diving seasons (one before and three after the change in diving quotas). The density of alive colonies of the false coral was, on average, six times lower in dived locations compared to controls, highlighting a clear impact of SCUBA diving (consistent over time). Colonies were also significantly smaller in dived locations. The diving quotas produced a significant reduction of the ratio dead/total colonies in the dived locations soon after their adoption, but these benefits disappeared over the following years, possibly due to a gradual decline in operators' and divers' observance and concern, rather than an increasing number of dives. This suggests that the adoption of effective regulations is crucial for the environmental sustainability of diving tourism in protected areas and can provide positive effects, but an effort is needed to ensure that compliance is consistent over time, and that low-impact diving practices are adopted by this important recreational sector.
Lingua originaleEnglish
pagine (da-a)113997-
Numero di pagine11
RivistaJournal of Environmental Management
Volume302
Stato di pubblicazionePublished - 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

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