Linking visitor impact research to visitor impact monitoring in protected areas

  • Hadwen W
  • Hill W
  • Pickering C
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Abstract

Growing demand for natural area recreation and tourism has seen a rise in visitor numbers to protected areas. In response, there has been an increase in research into visitor impacts. There has also been increased interest in establishing and maintaining visitor impacts monitoring programmes. Here, we evaluate the relationship between recreation ecology research and visitor impact monitoring and discuss how the aims and scope of these two activities often differ. We highlight that recreation ecologists design observational and experimental treatments to test causal relationships between a particular load or stress and environmental indicator(s) of interest. Some of these studies identify thresholds of concern, with the intention that managers can use thresholds of indicator response in their monitoring programmes. However, agencies interested in monitoring visitor impacts often do not need to establish causality, but rather detect change in the indicator of interest. Therefore, simplified protocols which can be easily conducted by agency staff in the field at regular and operationally appropriate time intervals can be used. We present a visitor assessment flow chart that demonstrates how research and monitoring objectives can interact and contribute to the cost-effective management of heavily visited sites within protected areas.
Growing demand for natural area recreation and tourism has seen a rise in visitor numbers to protected areas. In response, there has been an increase in research into visitor impacts. There has also been increased interest in establishing and maintaining visitor impacts monitoring programmes. Here, we evaluate the relationship between recreation ecology research and visitor impact monitoring and discuss how the aims and scope of these two activities often differ. We highlight that recreation ecologists design observational and experimental treatments to test causal relationships between a particular load or stress and environmental indicator(s) of interest. Some of these studies identify thresholds of concern, with the intention that managers can use thresholds of indicator response in their monitoring programmes. However, agencies interested in monitoring visitor impacts often do not need to establish causality, but rather detect change in the indicator of interest. Therefore, simplified protocols which can be easily conducted by agency staff in the field at regular and operationally appropriate time intervals can be used. We present a visitor assessment flow chart that demonstrates how research and monitoring objectives can interact and contribute to the cost-effective management of heavily visited sites within protected areas.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Icon sites
  • National Parks
  • Recreation
  • Tourism

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