Investigating the Effectiveness of Mindfulness on Coastal Recreationists to Mitigate Waterbird Disturbance

Laycock, Brooke Ann
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Growing coastal recreation across the globe is leading to more intense disturbances to wildlife. In particular, waterbirds such as Black Skimmers (Rynchops niger) on rookery islands, are experiencing severe population declines. A population decline for this species can have cascading consequences across the coastal ecosystem, this surging effect is due to the black skimmer's role as a bioindicator species. Species deemed as bioindicators are notorious for keeping environments at bay for disease outbreak and over population of other species within the ecosystem. Thus far, research on the mitigation of recreational disturbance to coastal bird species has focused on the efficacity of increasing enforcement mechanisms such as signage along the coast. While this approach may be effective in some contexts it is ineffectual in secluded environments that lack rules and regulations, law enforcement patrols, or spectators. The purpose of this study explored the efficiency of contemplative pedagogy focusing on enhancing attention, reflection, and heightened awareness. Specifically, this study focused on mindfulness as a useful tool to help recreationists manage their own behavior. Findings from interviews with 21 recreationists and biologists revealed that recreationists who were more thoughtful about their intentions, attention, and attitudes towards waterbird populations emerged more likely to conserve waterbirds. Additionally, informants were able to identify the user group that contributes the most impact to the waterbird population with 18 out of 21 identifications pointing to anglers. The data from this study also suggests that in order to reduce recreational disturbance to waterbirds and increase enforcement compliance, coastal managers should look to designing education and outreach programming that targets mindfulness. An exploration on the effectiveness of recreational compliance with waterbird conservation efforts in coastal areas, specifically on rookery islands on the Texas coast also took place in this study. The final analysis revealed that recreationists have different levels of compliance with conservation mechanisms, ranging from recognizing and complying, willing non-compliance, to unknowingly non-compliance. I furthermore explored the concepts of Nudging and Shoving to assess how to convert recreationists who do not comply to be compliant. I found that low-touch nudge mechanisms, such as signs, handouts, and emails, have minimal results in conservation efforts. Incorporating acts of shoving in the form of low-touch shove and high-touch shove could increase compliance and promote coastal waterbird populations to flourish. This study highlights the important correlation of recreational awareness and compliance with waterbird conservation efforts in coastal areas. The data suggests that mindfulness and both nudging and shoving can be an effective way to promote compliance while mitigating the negative impacts of recreational activities on coastal waterbirds.
NA, Biology
Laycock, B. (2023). Investigating the effectiveness of mindfulness on coastal recreationists to mitigate waterbird disturbance (Unpublished thesis). Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas.