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The economic, social and conservation benefits of recreation-orientated artificial reefs

Kirkbride-Smith, Anne Elizabeth


Anne Elizabeth Kirkbride-Smith



Coral reefs are highly diverse and economically important. Despite this, a confluence of anthropogenic threats endangers reefs globally. The diving tourism industry is an important beneficiary of coral reefs, especially reefs located within the tropical latitudes. With a recent increase in popularity of diving tourism concomitant with a global expansion of marine coastal tourism, reef managers and policy makers are presented with fresh challenges. This study explores the potential economic, social and conservation impacts of artificial reefs as recreational scuba diving resources and investigates their use as a reef management strategy within a marine protected area. A majority of the study was conducted on the Caribbean island of Barbados, West Indies. In the first part of the thesis, I estimate the economic benefits of recreation-orientated artificial reefs through a synthesis of data, and find that artificial reefs have a substantial recreation value. The need for more detailed, high-quality artificial reef valuation studies, that use a standard reporting protocol, is recommended. The second part of the thesis is based on field work using questionnaires to solicit information from users of artificial reefs. Interviews reveal novice divers have a preference for artificial reefs for local diving in contrast to experienced divers who have an overriding preference to dive on natural reefs. Moreover, an inverse relationship exists between diver experience and satisfaction of artificial reef diving, with novices being very satisfied with the experience. Using 24 variables to measure diver enjoyment between artificial and natural reef sites, I establish participants experience significantly higher levels of enjoyment at artificial reefs. Further, it was shown that enjoyment of artificial reefs is attributed to the challenge of the dive, new experiences and photographic opportunities. Irrespective of reef type, I find novices are significantly more influenced by personal incentive attributes of the dive (e.g. updating diving skills), while biophysical aspects of the reef and photography contribute significantly more to experienced divers enjoyment. A contingent valuation study of visitors to pay a daily marine park entrance fee reveals a higher mean willingness to pay (US$18.33) for natural reef conservation than for protecting and maintaining artificial reefs (US$17.58). Variables that exhibit significant explanatory power of willingness to pay include the number of species viewed, age of respondent and level of concern for coral reefs.


Kirkbride-Smith, A. E. (2014). The economic, social and conservation benefits of recreation-orientated artificial reefs. (Thesis). University of Hull. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Oct 13, 2015
Publicly Available Date Feb 23, 2023
Keywords Biological sciences
Public URL
Additional Information School of Biological, Biomedical and Environmental Sciences, The University of Hull
Award Date Dec 1, 2014


Thesis (3.5 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 2014 Kirkbride-Smith, Anne Elizabeth. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

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