Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Normative Standards for Coral Reef Conditions: A Comparison of SCUBA Divers by Specialization Level

Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Normative Standards for Coral Reef Conditions: A Comparison of SCUBA Divers by Specialization Level

Article excerpt


Recreation specialization provides a way to segment recreaüonists into meaningful subgroups along a continuum from low to high involvement. A number of studies have examined the connection between specialization and preferences, attitudes, support for management actions, and behaviors related to resource protection. These studies suggest that recreaüonists develop preferences for, or are aware of, certain resource characteristics as they become more experienced and/ or specialized (Ditton, Loomis & Choi, 1992; Whittaker & Shelby, 2002; Vaske, Donnelly, & Heberlein, 1980; Virden & Schreyer, 1998; Lee, Graefe, & Li, 2007). Furthermore, concern about environmental impacts and environmentally responsible behaviors may be greater among more specialized individuals (Oh & Ditton, 2006; Dyck, Schneider, Thompson, & Virden, 2003; Oh, Ditton, Anderson, Scott, & Stoll, 2005; Hvenegaard, 2002; Thapa, Graefe, & Meyer, 2005 & 2006).

Another approach to understanding recreaüonists would be to consider how normative evaluations for resource conditions differ among specialization groups. Unlike measures of attitudes, preferences, and behaviors, normative approaches provide a way of understanding how conditions "ought to be" according to a social group. Normative standards have been examined in a variety of contexts, including stream flows (Whittaker & Shelby, 2002), trail conditions (Kim & Shelby, 2005; Lawson & Manning, 2002), ecological impacts to lakes (Smyth, Watzin, & Manning, 2005), and campsite conditions (Lawson & Manning, 2002). However, less attention has been given to the connection between experience/specialization and resource condition norms. This study seeks to better understand this connection by focusing on resource conditions in an ecologically sensitive environment - Florida Keys coral reefs - within the context of recreation specialization.

Literature Review

Recreation Specialization

Recreation specialization was first proposed by Bryan (1977) as "a continuum of behavior from the general to the particular, reflected by equipment and skills used in the sport and activity setting preferences" (p. 175). Trout anglers were classified into four groups based on their equipment, participation history, fishing partners, and species, catch, setting, and management preferences. Groups ranged from the least specialized "occasional fishermen," to "generalists," "technique specialists," and the highly specialized "technique-setting specialists."

Since its introduction, recreation specialization has been applied to a number of topics, including bridge (Scott & Godbey, 1994), hunting (Miller & Graefe, 2000), camping (McFarlane, 2004), Whitewater rafting (Kuentzel & McDonald, 1992; Bricker & Kerstetter, 2000), and birdwatching (Scott, Ditton, Stoll, & Eubanks, 2005; Lee & Scott, 2004; Hvenegaard, 2002). Recreation specialization has been used to predict a variety of items, ranging from preferences for management action (Kuentzel & McDonald, 1992) to conservation involvement (Hvenegaard, 2002), place attachment (Bricker & Kerstetter, 2000), environmental behavior (Thapa et al., 2005, 2006), camping site choice (McFarlane, 2004), and attitudes toward marine protected areas (Salz & Loomis, 2005). Likewise, approaches to measuring recreation specialization have varied considerably. While early studies relied on a single measure of specialization, such as participation frequency, others have involved the development of indices based on concepts proposed by Bryan (1977), including centrality of the activity to a person's life, equipment used, skill level, experience, and economic commitment (see Scott et al., 2005 for a review of measurement approaches).

While several researchers have measured and applied recreation specialization, the concept could not be empirically advanced due to circular reasoning in Bryan's original definition (Ditton et al. …

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