NCCOS social scientists published findings from a survey of coastal Georgia's permanent residents, seasonal residents, and visitors detailing what the three groups know and value about the region's ecosystem services. The survey—whose study area includes the Sapelo Island National Estuarine Research Reserve and Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary—addressed observed changes in abundance of key resources and prioritization of management goals, as well as a participatory mapping component that asked respondents to rank thirteen social value types and place points on a map corresponding with those values.
Aesthetics, recreation, and biodiversity were the social values most frequently cited by residents as their reason for using the study area. Survey respondents exhibited high levels of place attachment to coastal Georgia, and most felt that there are adequate levels of public access to coastal Georgia’s resources, including boat ramps, boat slips, scenic viewpoints, wildlife viewing, and educational opportunities. Further, most residents felt that the various management options proposed in the survey, such as improving coastal water quality, restoring live bottom reef habitat, and wetland restoration, are “priority” items.
Sanctuary and reserve staff can use these findings to inform management decisions, as well as to advocate for increased connectivity between the two management areas. The findings may also provide a foundation for the development of an educational “scenic trail” that connects various protected areas along the Georgia coast.