Coastal environments might be envisaged as being composed by two interacting subsystems: one natural and the other socioeconomic. This work proposes a system of recreational beaches classification in a rank of four indicators (A for excellent, B for good, C for regular, and D for bad), which can be useful in developing countries, where it is important to promote transfer of scientific information about coastal quality in a simple and useful form and to help identify areas worth preserving and others with potential for more intensive use, provided that the appropriate control is in place. The method analyses 60 parameters grouped into two subsystems (natural and socioeconomic). Each of the 30 natural parameters was assessed based on an attribute scale ranging from the worst (1) to the best (3) quality. For the socioeconomic parameters, only positive or negative categories were attributed. For both subsystems, a scale from 1 (not important) to 3 (very important) was used to indicate the weight of each parameter. The sum of the parameters for each subsystem was used separately to find a score. To classify the beaches, different percentages of the total score were used. The scale ranged from 33 to 100% for the natural subsystem and 0 and 100% for the socioeconomic subsystem. A pilot study was made at nine beach areas (∼500 m each) of three different uses and development levels (overdeveloped, developed, and underdeveloped). The D indicator did not appear in our results. The best indicators occurred at less developed beach areas.
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