Quantifying community's functional awareness of coastal changes and hazards from citizen perception analysis in Canada, UK and Spain

Ursule Boyer-Villemaire, Pascal Bernatchez, Javier Benavente, Andrew Cooper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


A community's adaptive capacity in relation to a rapidly changing coastline is strongly related to the perception of environmental risks. Such perceptions are, however, not well understood at the level of communities and have seldom been compared from one country to another. A framework for natural hazard perception is presented using the concept of functional awareness. This level of consciousness sufficient to influence behaviour is represented by a set of indicators that reflect the perception 1) of dreadfulness, 2) of uncertainty and 3) behavioural change. We conducted a survey (n = 125) in three communities exposed to coastal erosion and coastal flooding in Avignon (Quebec), Kilkeel (Northern Ireland) and Chipiona (Andalucia) to measure three themes: 1) the citizen's general knowledge about coastal change, 2) the perception of coastal changes in their community compared to that reported in the scientific literature and 3) their preferences for adaptation solutions. Multivariate analysis was used to identify the main socio-demographical descriptors. The main factors that influence perception were the site characteristics, the cultural experience of the coast, educational level, and duration in the community. Accounting for all three communities, the functional awareness scores exposed that the weakest ability lays in the fragmentation of preferences towards potential solutions. For Kilkeel and Chipiona, this was related to the difficulty of accurately identifying the environmental hazard trends and a lower degree of personal experience of coastline change. In Avignon, which is more functionally aware, partly thanks to targeted education & information and repeated experiences of hazards, the fragmentation of solution preferences would rather be related to inner community variation. Robustly used in these three countries, the functional awareness framework helped identify each community perception breaks and could be used to identify activities to strengthen community adaptive capacity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)106-120
JournalOcean and Coastal Management
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - Mar 2014


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