Reducing Human Disturbance to Atlantic Flyway Shorebirds Using Social Science Methods
Comber, Carolyn Anne
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Human disturbance is a significant threat to shorebirds in North America. Disturbance can result in direct mortality or have long-term impacts on the survival of shorebirds. Land managers employ a variety of management techniques to minimize anthropogenic impacts on shorebirds, but because the Atlantic Flyway is ecologically and recreationally diverse, management can vary among sites. This thesis used social science methods to understand the extent to which human disturbance is managed and how human disturbance is managed. Specifically, we surveyed land managers and biologists in the U.S. and Canada portions of the Atlantic Flyway to examine potential disturbances, types of activities that are restricted, when restrictions occur, the perceived effectiveness of management techniques, public compliance with restrictions, and resource needs of managers. With the findings from this research, agencies and organizations that manage shorebirds can assess where to invest time, effort, and resources to reduce disturbance. We also used a survey of dog walkers to ascertain the benefits and constraints to leashing dogs near shorebirds because dog walking is one of the top-rated potential disturbances to shorebirds. Additionally, we sought to understand the personal and social norms related to dog walking and evaluated if a community-based social marketing (CBSM) approach would be enhanced by the addition of norms. Using a CBSM approach, we provided insights on strategies to promote voluntarily leashing of dogs near shorebirds. Through this thesis, we aimed to bridge the needs of people and the needs of shorebirds, in an effort to produce effective conservation outcomes.
General Audience Abstract
Shorebird populations have declined in the past four decades. Declines are due in part to human use of coastal areas, which can result in harm to shorebirds. To reduce human impacts on shorebirds and help land managers make decisions about management, this thesis used social science methods. Using a survey of managers, we found that management primarily occurs during the spring and summer and is less frequently during the fall and winter. Of the human activities that could disturb shorebirds, walking dogs off leash is the most commonly regulated. But people are also least commonly compliant with these regulations. Managers believe that the best ways to reduce disturbance to shorebirds included fencing, informal outreach, and signage. More staff and volunteers are also needed to help reduce disturbance. In a subsequent survey of dog walkers, we learned why people leash (or do not leash) dogs near shorebirds. We found that people leash to protect shorebirds, keep dogs safe, control dogs, and keep dogs from bothering people. People choose not to leash because leashing prevents dogs from exercising and socializing, and people believe dogs respond to commands. People who leash dogs generally believe others expect them to leash their dogs near shorebirds. Knowing why people leash or do not leash can help predict leashing behavior and encourage dog walkers to voluntarily leash dogs near shorebirds. This thesis considers the needs of people and the needs of shorebirds as way to achieve effective conservation solutions.
- Masters Theses