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Reconciling recreational use and conservation values in a coastal protected area

Stigner MG, Beyer HL, Klein CJ, & Fuller RA (2016) Reconciling recreational use and conservation values in a coastal protected area. Journal of Applied Ecology, 53, 1206-1214.

  1. Protected areas often need to provide recreational opportunities whilst conserving biodiversity. Recreation brings important benefits to human well-being, and allowing people to experience nature in protected areas can also provide revenue and support for conservation objectives. However, not all recreational activities are compatible with environmental management goals.
  1. Here, we show how a coastal protected area can be zoned to satisfy both recreational and conservation objectives.
  1. We collected empirical data on the effect of recreational disturbance to foraging shorebirds in Moreton Bay Marine Park, Queensland, Australia, and calculated the benefit of alternative protected area zone types on shorebird representation using a zero-inflated negative binomial model. The predictions from this model were used to optimize a zoning plan in a linear programming framework that balances recreational use with shorebird conservation. Costs reflect foregone recreational oppor tunity, thereby facilitating solut ions that minimize restrictions on recreational use of the coastline.
  1. We discover a consistent negative effect of recreational use of the foreshore on shorebird occupancy and abundance and show that, despite this, zoning can be used to achieve shorebird representation targets with only a small cost to recreational opportunity.
  1. When dog recreation is permitted at all sites, a 91% shorebird representation target can be met, indicating that de facto patterns of recreation were rather well segregated from areas used by shorebirds. By restricting dog recreation to five sites and allowing people to access all other foreshore sites, shorebird representation increased to 97%.
  1. Synthesis and applications. Our approach of calculating the contribution of each zone type towards conservation objectives results in zoning plans with robust estimates of conservation benefit that can be readily implemented by managers. Specifically, we estimated the effects of removing people and domestic dog recreation within each intertidal site on shorebird abundance to inform coastal zoning plans. Incorporating cost as foregone recreational opportunity results in zoning plans that minimize the number of people required to make a behavioural change. Compliance to zone types is often ultimately voluntary so integrating the current intensity of recrea tional use is more likely to generat e workable zoning plans.

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