What we know and what we think we know: Revealing misconceptions about coastal management for sandy beaches along the U.S. Atlantic Seaboard.


Department of Biology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA. Electronic address: [Email]


Management of coastal areas is necessary to maintain and protect existing permanent structures. Coastal erosion management falls into soft and hard shoreline stabilization options with the United States tending to favor hard. However, post-Hurricane Sandy 2012, soft dune and beach replenishment have become more favorable in the U.S. with support being necessarily contingent upon an understanding of the pros, cons, and concepts surrounding each management strategy. Misconceptions could thus lead to a halt in progress and poor decisions with implications for community safety. We sought to gain a better understanding of current knowledge surrounding best practices in coastal management communities. Our assumption was that misconceptions in one coastal area, New Jersey, are likely echoed in other coastal areas in the U.S. and internationally. We employed a two-phase research design with an exploratory phase using semi-structured interview guidelines to collect data from a quota sample of 53 local residents and then tested the distribution of knowledge about coastal management facts by asking a convenience sample of 300 residents a structured set of 15 questions. Study participants identify differences in how beaches are managed and how protected they conversely consider an area to be. Dunes are generally preferred over hard engineering and replenishment. However, many key concepts regarding how dunes function naturally, with regards to the role of vegetation and fencing, are poorly understood suggesting a need for greater education surrounding these topics. Participants support continued tax investment in coastal areas to avoid retreat but recognize a tragedy of the commons in such actions for future generations. Learning who knows what, may contribute to more fruitful dialogues among stakeholders to pave the way for the adoption of suitable and sustainable management practices for better protected shorelines.


Beach,Climate change,Community representation,Dunes,Replenishment,Social sciences and outreach,