Biscayne National Park Visitors Concerned About Climate Change And How It Could Impact the Park

Thirty-seven percent of Biscayne National Park visitors who participated in a survey on climate change say they've already noticed impacts from a warming impact on the park, 95 percent of which is under water. Photo of yellow snappers and coral by QT Luong, www.terragalleria.com/parks used with permission.

A slight majority of Biscayne National Park visitors are worried about climate change, and about one-third believe the park already is being harmed by a warming climate, according to a survey conducted by Colorado State University researchers.

The survey (attached), conducted from May 2011 and on into this month, is part of a larger survey of climate-change attitudes and opinions that includes other units of the National Park System, from Biscayne and Everglades to Harpers Ferry National Historic Park to North Cascades National Park and on to Kenai Fjords National Park and Preserve.

Overall, 68 percent of the respondents from all the surveys conducted (4,163) said they either "strongly agree" or "agree" that "some of the effects of climate change can already be seen at our national parks/refuges." Seventy-one percent indicated an interest in learning more about how climate change impacts national parks.

In Biscayne, 257 surveys were collected, for a response rate of 67 percent. Most visitors surveyed were in the age bracket of 36-45 (22%). The highest percentage of visitors surveyed were male (54%). Many respondents had completed a graduate or professional degree (35%). Most visitors surveyed self-identified as white or Cauasian (66%) as well as Democratic (33%). On average, visitors surveyed have visited the park 12 times. Many visitors indicated that this was their first visit (52%).

Part of the survey was designed to determine how important national parks were in general to the respondents, as well as how important Biscayne was specifically. According to the results, nearly 70 percent of the respondents thought the National Park System was extremely important, and 51 percent "stated that Biscayne National Park is extremely important to themselves and their family."

When it came down to specific threats to the parks, 46 percent cited inadequate funding for the National Park System in general, and 30 percent cited that in connection with Biscayne specifically. Just 5 percent mentioned climate change as "the greatest" threat to the national parks in general or Biscayne specifically.

Delving into climate change and the parks more specifically, the survey found that 32 percent of the Biscayne respondents were "extremely sure" it was occurring, and 25 percent were "very sure" it was ongoing. Just 4 percent said they were "extremely sure" it wasn't happening.

Of those who thought climate change already was impacting Biscayne, 37 percent said they had noticed a change "in plant and animal populations," 35 percent said they had seen the effect of coral bleaching on reefs, and 26 percent said they thought the ocean had gotten warmer.

Of those respondents, 23 percent were "extremely worried" about climate change, and 32 percent were "very worried." Nine percent were not worried at all. Fifty-six percent considered the issue of climate change either "extremely important" or "very important" to them personally.

"Many visitors felt very informed about the causes of climate change (43%) and very informed about the consequences of climate change (43%). Most visitors also felt very informed about ways in which we can mitigate climate change (39%)," the survey indicated. When asked what they thought was driving climate change, 34 percent said it was mostly caused by human activities, 14 percent attributed it to natural changes in the environment, and 50 percent pointed to both human and natural causes.

Fifty-seven percent said they thought climate change would harm future generations "a great deal," while 45 percent thought it would harm Biscayne National Park "a great deal." Twenty-eight percent thought the park already was being adversely affected by climate change.

When asked, “How much money, in addition to the entrance fees you currently pay, would you be willing to pay per visit to support additional conservation efforts related to climate change at this Park?”, 47 percent of the respondents said they would be willing to pay an extra $1-$5, and 28 percent said they would be willing to pay an extra $6-$10.

Twelve percent said they wouldn't be willing to pay anything extra.

To combat human-caused climate change, 62 percent of the respondents said they would be willing to change their behaviors. Eighty-two percent said they already are striving to reduce their electricity usage at home, 68 percent said they have switched from incandescent lightbulbs to compact flourescent bulbs, 59 percent said they have improved the insulation of their homes, and 49 percent said they are driving less.

National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis has described climate change as one of the greatest threats to the national parks and has worked to adopt and implement policies to help the various units of the National Park System adapt to the impacts of climate change.

Against that effort, though, 63 percent of the respondents at Biscayne said they had not received any climate-change information from the park.

The survey was made possible by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

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BISC-Climate Change Survey.pdf936.27 KB