Pro-environmental Behavior in Marine Protected Areas: The Cases of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary


  • Christopher J. Wynveen
  • W. Dale Connally
  • Gerard T. Kyle


Pro-environmental behavior, marine protected area, value-belief- norm theory, coral reef, human dimensions of natural resource management


Since 2003, the total ocean area that has been set aside for conservation in marine protected areas has increased by more than 150% (Toropova, Meliane, Laffoley, Mathews, & Spalding, 2010). However, there has been only a small amount of literature concerning the human dimensions of managing marine protected areas. Several researchers and managers have suggested a need to learn more about stakeholders’ attitudes and concerns regarding marine protected areas (Agardy, 2004; Bellwood, Hughes, Folke, & Nystrom, 2004; Hinrichsen, 1997). This paper describes an investigation that sought to identify the thoughts and feelings recreational visitors ascribe to two different marine protected areas: the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Specifically, we used a modified version of Stern, Kalof, Dietz, and Guagnano’s (1995) Value-Belief-Norm Theory of Environmentalism to guide our investigation. Via identical survey instruments distributed in Queensland, Australia during 2008 and in the United States’ Florida Keys in 2010, we identified respondents’ environmental worldview, awareness of consequences of human impacts, ascription of responsibility, personal norms toward reducing impacts, and intention to behave in a pro-environmental manner. We then compared the values, beliefs, norms, and behavioral intentions of each group with one another in order to describe the similarities and differences between the American and Australian respondents. This is one of the first pieces of research to document the antecedents to pro- environmental behavior in marine protected areas. It is also unique in that it compares stakeholder perceptions of anthropogenic impacts at two marine parks on opposite sides of the globe. Furthermore, these data and analyses, combined with existing literature, highlight how the Value-Belief-Norm theory can be used as a framework for managers to understand stakeholders’ thoughts about their own pro-environmental behavior. We discuss how managers might use this knowledge as part of environmental information and education programs to increase the likelihood that visitors will adopt pro-environmental behaviors that help conserve marine protected areas.