Public perception of coastal habitat loss and habitat creation using artificial floating islands in the UK
Eco-engineering and the installation of green infrastructure such as artificial floating islands (AFIs), are novel techniques used to support biodiversity. The European Convention on Biological Diversity highlighted the development of green infrastructure as a key method of enhancement in degraded habitats. Research specifically on AFIs in marine environments has largely focused on their ecological functioning role and engineering outcomes, with little consideration for the social benefits or concerns. The aim of this study was to gain an understanding of public perception of coastal habitat loss in the UK and AFIs as a method of habitat creation in coastal environments. This was achieved via a survey, consisting of six closed and two open questions. Of the 200 respondents, 94.5% were concerned about the loss of coastal habitats in the UK, but less than a third were aware of habitat restoration or creation projects in their area of residence. There was a positive correlation between proximity of residency to the coast and knowledge of habitat restoration or creation projects. The majority of the respondents understood the ecological functioning role of AFIs and 62% would preferably want successful plant growth and avian species utilising the AFI. Nearly a third of the respondents had concerns about AFI installations, such as the degradation of the plastic matrix, long term maintenance and disturbance of native species. Despite 90.9% of the respondents supporting the installation of AFIs, the concerns of the public must be addressed during the planning stages of any habitat creation project.