Coastal recreation and water quality are major contributors to human well-being in coastal regions. They can also interact, creating opportunities for ecosystem based management, ecological restoration, and water quality improvement that can positively affect people and the environment. Yet the effect of environmental quality on human behavior is often poorly quantified, but commonly assumed in coastal ecosystem service studies. To clarify this effect we investigate a water quality dataset for evidence that environmental condition partially explains variation in recreational visitation, our indicator of human behavior. In Puget Sound, WA, we investigate variation in visitation in both visitation rate and fixed effects (FE) models. The visitation rate model relates the differences in annual recreational visitation among parks to environmental conditions, park characteristics, travel cost, and recreational demand. In our FE model we control for all time-invariant unobserved variables and compare monthly variation at the park level to determine how water quality affects visitation during the summer season. The results of our first model illustrate how visitation relates to various amenities and costs. In the FE analysis, monthly visitation was negatively related to water quality while controlling for monthly visitation trends. This indicates people are responding to changes in water quality, and an improvement would yield an increase in the value of recreation. Together, these results could help in prioritizing water quality improvements, could assist the creation of new parks or the modification of existing recreational infrastructure, and provide quantitative estimates for the expected benefits from potential changes in recreational visitation and water quality improvements. Our results also provide an example of how recreational visitation can be quantified and used in ecosystem service assessments.
Additional publication details
Interacting coastal based ecosystem services: recreation and water quality in Puget Sound, WA