There is an increasing recognition of the importance of cultural ecosystem services (CES) of marine habitats for supporting the management of the marine environment, despite relevant contributions, the question of how they can be assessed continues to be a big challenge in the literature. As urban coastal populations and tourism increase, the popularity of recreational and scientific scuba diving (SD) has increased dramatically, evidenced by the number of locations promoting their marine resources in efforts to become scuba diving destinations and hotspots. These increased recreation and tourism activities have been accompanied by concern for the impacts that human activities have on marine and coastal ecosystems. Marine protected areas (MPAs) have faced a multitude of threats to the ecosystems, and respective services that have been established to be preserved.
Effective conservation requires mitigation of the negative impacts and implementation of effective management plans, namely through the growing awareness of the divers. There is a growing research in this area comprising a broad enquiry from marine environment impacts through human physiology, health and safety, diver motivation and satisfaction. Many of these studies support an effort to understand the issues in scuba diving and related tourism, but very few integrate multiple stakeholders and perspectives in a holistic way. Research done has also highlighted the fragility of ecosystems used for tourism and noted the importance of ongoing assessment of ecological, social and economic factors for the sustainability of these areas.
Therefore, in this project, working closely with Underwater World Federation (CMAS) and other stakeholders involved in the management and conservation of MPAS and Underwater heritage areas, an assessment of CES related to underwater recreational sites will be performed through a framework for collaborative management. The understanding of divers’ perceptions of the impacts of diving and their involvement in conservation activities in the future is fundamental. Is crucial to improve divers’ technical and scientific knowledge.
The main aim is to assess CES regarding recreation values in subaquatic environments through a framework for collaborative management reflecting environmentally responsible practices within the SD activities. This main aim should be achieved through different objectives:
We expected to develop an ecosystem services approach, to assess based in an economic and environmental assessment, that can support the management of marine and coastal areas. The diver’s behavioral standards will allow the creation of norms and guidelines of good practices. We hope that from the results of the study it will be possible to develop a quality certification system to be used in different diving areas, improving environmental consciousness by assessing the importance giving to preservation and conservation of marine areas, the related CES.