2nd UF Water Institute Symposium Abstract

Submitter's Name William Kanapaux
Session Name Poster Session: Human Dimensions of Water Sustainability 1
Category Human dimensions of water sustainability
Poster Number 111
Author(s) William Kanapaux,  University of Florida
  Assessing Visitor Impact on Coastal Habitats in South Carolina‚Äôs ACE Basin
  This poster reports initial data from a visitor impact study of an ecologically sensitive barrier island ecosystem first opened to the public in July 2008. The study combines social, spatial and ecological data in an adaptive management framework to analyze visitor impact on the site, with a focus on two species of concern: loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta) and least terns (Sterna albifrons). The study site, Botany Bay Plantation, is located on Edisto Island, South Carolina. It comprises 4,687 acres (1,897 hectares) of beach, tidal marsh, agricultural fields, forest and brackish and freshwater ponds. The plantation simultaneously serves as a wildlife management area, a heritage preserve and a beach destination for vacationers and local residents. About 50,000 people visited the site in its first year of public access. Botany Bay Plantation serves as important habitat for a number of wildlife species. Such coastal habitat is under increased pressure from development and subsequent fragmentation on Edisto Island and neighboring barrier islands. The site is also under pressure in its dual roles as a wildlife management area and a tourist attraction. The amount of vehicle and foot traffic now on site far exceeds traffic at any time when the property was privately owned. I report on data from summer 2009 field work, the start of a two-year study. The data include visitor-use surveys, spatially defined beach-density surveys, beach turnover counts, visitor check-in logs, loggerhead nesting data, least tern nesting data and interviews with management staff and stakeholders. Descriptive statistics and qualitative analysis are presented. These analyses are used to examine the tensions between conservation of a diminishing coastal resource and public access to it. They also set the stage for developing a simulation model to help manage visitor impact on site.