Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Marine Affairs


Marine Affairs

First Advisor

Robert Thompson


Recreational use of the coastal lagoons in Rhode Island is one of the major factors that makes the southern part of the state a tourism-dependent economy. The coastal lagoons (also known as salt ponds) are highly valued for a wide range of recreational activities such as fishing, clamming, boating, and water tubing. Weather considerably affects an individual’s decisions to recreate outside, especially on the water. Climate change will affect the weather in Rhode Island, thereby affecting when, how, and how much people recreate in the coastal areas of the state. Understanding both short- and long-term variance in coastal recreation could help state managers and business owners better utilize resources and plan for the future.

This mixed methods study focuses on how sensitive different types of coastal recreational users (relaxing, kayaking, motor boating, and fishing) are to different weather conditions and how much weather is perceived by the recreationist to play a role in the decision making process. Observational data of human activities in RI coastal lagoons was used to determine revealed importance for weather factors using linear regression models. Intercept surveys were used to determine how much weather played a role in the decision to recreate at the lagoon that day. Based on these results, short- and long-term forecasts can be made about how recreational activities might change with day-to-day weather changes and, in the longer term, with climate change trends.

Recreational fishing and clamming was found to be the least affected by weather factors, which is complemented by interview results which suggest the main motivators for fishers are not weather factors but mostly tidal conditions. Humidity, precipitation, and wind were found to have significant negative effects across activities and average high temperatures were found to have significant positive effects across activities, with higher coefficients indicating a high percent increase in recreational use with a one degree increase in temperature. Results also indicate a high temperature threshold for all uses tested (relaxing, kayaking, fishing) except motor boating, which may have implications for recreational activity as summer temperature trends increase with climate change. Observational and interview results were qualitatively compared, and it was found that stated importance of weather factors matches relatively well with observed action for relaxing and rowing, and less well for fishing and motoring.

If climate change brings warmer temperatures and more intense wind and rain events, the results indicate that we can expect a decrease in relaxing, rowing, and fishing on the hotter days and a decrease in especially rowing and fishing on windier days. Warmer temperatures may increase the length of the summer season and may lead to an overall increase in recreational use, though in the peak of the heat there may be a shift towards motor boating as it was found to be the most resistant to high temperatures. This information can help businesses and managers better understand fluctuations in recreational use type and amount on the coastal lagoons.



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