Coastal landowner opinions are more important than ever, according to study

Landowners who live near the coastline are more likely to advocate for conservation efforts, according to a recent study.(Chris Hunkeler/Flickr Creative Commons)

Landowners who live near the coastline are more likely to advocate for conservation efforts, according to a recent study.(Chris Hunkeler/Flickr Creative Commons)

Landowners who live near the coastline are more likely to advocate for conservation efforts, according to a recent study.

In the article “Landowner behavior can determine the success of conservation strategies for ecosystem migration under sea-level rise,”  Christopher Field, who is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center at University of Maryland, with the help of Dr. Ashley Dayer and Chris Elphick, conducted a survey to analyze coastal Conn. landowners’ opinions on whether or not they would be likely to use current conservation efforts on their land.  

“It grew out of research I was doing at the time. The potential for tidal marshes is astounding,” Field said. “A lot of the other research suggests that tidal marshes will have to move inland. One of the big questions about tidal marshes is what landowners will do in response. A lot of landowners may have dry land now, but in twenty years it could be tidal.”

According to the article, 6.9 percent of landowners are likely or strongly likely to participate in the next years in conservation efforts, 3.2 percent chose easements (zoning that prohibits shoreline protection) as their first choice, 8.2 percent chose seawalls, 22 percent wanted to build shoreline protection and 42 percent to 48 percent were unlikely to participate in any agreements. Landowners who had homes destroyed by Hurricane Sandy in 2012 were 1.4 times more likely to be pro-conservation efforts.  

“We don’t know the exact reason [why landowners who live closer to the shore tend to be more prone to conservation efforts]. We do have a good sense that the people who live closer feel the effects,” Field said. “It’s a lot more real and they have thought about the impacts. We found some evidence that landowners who were affected by Sandy were more likely to want conservation efforts.”

In addition, the article indicates that strengthening beliefs in climate change could have both negative and positive outcomes.  

“People who believe that sea level rise is real were more likely to build seawalls,” Field said. According to additional research by Elphick, the seawalls can lead to a heavy decrease of certain animal populations, including the salt marsh sparrows, which only exist in the Conn. coast of Long Island Sound.

The article states that certain strategies for increasing conservation behavior include promoting beliefs in climate change through public education, increasing memberships for in environmental groups and highlighting the benefits of ecosystems.  

“[This study] raised a lot of questions,” Field said. “We didn’t fully understand why landowners prefer easements but would rather outright sell their houses. Some didn’t like losing rights to their property. Other factors might be driving for other agreements. Hopefully, future research will identify what makes strategies more or less popular. We just need to do more research.”


Rachel Philipson is a contributor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at rachel.philipson@uconn.edu.