Coastal zone management requires consideration of not only conservation efforts, but also the sustainable use of their natural resources for human purposes. Therefore, there is a growing consensus on the importance of designing new multidisciplinary, economically affordable, and effective approaches to address these needs. In this study, a rapid assessment methodology is proposed to generate habitat characterization that works as a baseline for management. Several rocky-shallow sites located in Bahia de Navidad were assessed from the point of view of “landscape quality” for the practice of recreational scuba diving, to provide an overview of the state of physical, biological and environmental features and to evaluate their potential for tourism use. More than 30 sites were sampled over a year, grouped in 7 zones, covering three periods: an aftermath period of a circumstantial category 2 hurricane (November and December 2011), a dry season (February–June 2012), and a rainy season (July–December 2012). The sites were described using 40 variables considered appealing for the practice of recreational scuba diving, sub classified in four criteria: abiotic factors, anthropogenic impact, biotic factors, and accessibility. An expert criterion was used as a weighting factor to enhance the most significant variables defining the quality of a dive experience, then the data were analyzed from a zonal classification approach, followed by a non-metric MDS analysis conducted to corroborate the emerged patterns and a PERMANOVA analysis to identify significant differences between zones and seasons. As a result, an integrated zoning pattern oriented for management was determined, where the zones are hierarchically identified accord to their quality scores for the recreational scuba diving practice, and their required skill level is recommended as well. The results also showed evidence of a high ecosystem resilience and low disturbance after the hurricane passed, factors that actually improved the quality of diving experience in this particular case. In addition, the fact that the rainy season showed more favorable features than the dry season (better visibility, warmer sea water and more fauna) was also observed. Finally, the features observed and their relevance for the definition of the quality of the diving experience of the sites and their zones are discussed.
Ocean & Coastal Management – Elsevier
Published: Feb 1, 2018
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