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Vehicle damage caused by recreational use of coastal dune systems in a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) on the west coast of Ireland


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This study investigates the vehicle damage caused by recreational use on three coastal dune systems on the west coast of Ireland. Using aerial photographs taken in 1973, 2000, 2004 and 2006 in conjunction with ecological surveys, the impacts of recreational activities were assessed. The results show that the overall area of tracks increased more than threefold between 1973 and 2007 with the exception of one site where restricted access resulted in a subsequent reduction in the number of tracks. The study further shows that most recreational activities at the sites were water-based, with most traffic movement directed towards the shore and the highest density of tracks being within the first few hundred meters of the High Water Mark. The results of this study are discussed in the context of visitor management strategies for coastal conservation sites under recreational pressure. KeywordsDune system-Habitat damage-Ireland-Machair-Recreation-Tracks-Recreation management
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Vehicle damage caused by recreational use of coastal dune
systems in a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) on the west
coast of Ireland
Gesche Kindermann & Michael J. Gormally
Received: 20 August 2009 /Revised: 29 March 2010 /Accepted: 30 March 2010 /Published online: 23 April 2010
Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010
Abstract This study investigates the vehicle damage
caused by recreational use on three coastal dune systems
on the west coast of Ireland. Using aerial photographs taken
in 197 3, 2000, 2004 and 2006 in conjunction with
ecological surveys, the impacts of recreational activities
were assessed. The results show that the overall area of
tracks increased more than threefold between 1973 and
2007 with the exception of one site where restricted access
resulted in a subsequent reduction in the number of tracks.
The study further shows that most recreational activities at
the sit es were water-based, with most traffic movement
directed towards the shore and the highest density of tracks
being within the first few hundred meters of the High Water
Mark. The results of this study are discussed in the context
of visitor management strategies for coastal conservation
sites under recreational pressure.
Keywords Dune system
Habitat damage
Recreation management
cSAC candidate Special Area of Conservation
EU European Union
GIS Geographical Information Systems
HWM High Water Mark
JNCC Joint Nature Conservation Committee
NPWS National Parks and Wildlife Service
OSi Ordnance Survey Ireland
SAC Special Area of Conservation
SNH Scottish Natural Heritage
The coast and particularly sand dune systems are under
pressure from human activity, especially from recreation and
tourism uses. While, in general, human infrastructure and
development too close to the shore tend to worsen the
process of coastal erosion (Wilcock 1977), utilization of the
coast for recreational purposes, by both locals and residents,
further exacerbate this by increasing the need for develop-
ment on the shore including facilities such as hotels, caravan
parks and golf courses (Cabot 1977; Quigley 1991;Catto
2002). These take up dune habitat and can interrupt the
natural dynamics of the dune systems, such as dune
movement or sand deposition patterns (Wilcock 1977;Curr
et al. 2000). The impacts of these factors are further
amplified by the fact that provision of facilities attracts
visitors to the area, increasing the recreational pressure
(McLeod et al. 2001).
However, even in the absence of facilities, beaches and
dune systems are attractive recreation areas that are visited
by many people every year as coastal recreation is popular
with both locals and especially tourists. The overall issues
in these dune systems in relation to recreational uses are
trampling and erosion, resulting from activities like walk-
ing, pony trekking or driving (Quigley 1991; Curr et al.
2000; McLeod et al. 2001; Priskin 2003). The problem is
that open access, lack of parking facilities and proximity to
the beach attract increasing numbers of vehicles to the
G. Kindermann (*)
M. J. Gormally
Applied Ecology Unit, Centre for Environmental Science,
School of Natural Sciences, National University of Ireland,
Galway, University Road,
Galway, Ireland
J Coast Conserv (2010) 14:173188
DOI 10.1007/s11852-010-0102-7
flatter areas of dune systems, which cause damage to the
dune habitats.
It has been shown that impacts and severity of impacts
on habitats, especially on dune systems, depend on the use
of the site. Extensive studies have been undertaken on the
effects of trampli ng on vegetation and soils, especially in
relation to sand dune systems. Liddle and Greig-Smith
(1975a, b) surveyed tracks and paths in sand dune
ecosystems in Anglesey, North Wales, with reference to
effects of walking and vehicles on both soil and vegetation
while Luckenbach and Bury (1983) studied effects of off-
road vehicles on dune biota of the Algodones Dune s in
California. In both cases it was found that the effects of
vehicles were detrimental to plants causing loss of floral
diversity. In Denmark, Andersen (1995) investigated the
impacts of path creation due to human trampling on five
coastal plant communities and came to the conclusion that
for all five communities, total number of vascular plant
species, species diversity and total vegetation cover were
significantly reduced. Gremm en et al. (2003) concluded
that for the vegetation of the Sub Antarctic Marion Island,
human trampling resulted in reduced vegetation height,
reduced total cover and reduced species richness of mires
and feldmark, an exposed habitat, characterised by low
plant cover, dominated by Azorella selago and cushion-
forming mosses (Gremmen et al. 2003). Furthermore they
noted that trampling effects differed between plant growth-
forms which Burden and Randerson (1972) had previously
observed. Hence, different habitats show different degrees
of vulnerability according to the plant species composition
(Hylgaard and Liddle 1981). Nonetheless, these and other
studies demonstrate that the effects of trampling of any
kind, human or vehicular, on vegetation but in particular
sand dunes are detrimental to the vegetation and cause
erosion of the soil (Liddle 1975; Westhoff 1967). Due to
weight and type of motion, the damage caused by vehicles
is more extensive than that caused by human trampling
(Westhoff 1967). Schofield (1967) and Weaver and Dale
(1978) further noted that repetitive use increased erosion,
the former stating that 4,000 uses caused the exposure of
sand and soil in grey dunes, and the latter stating that up to
1,000 repeated passages by motorbike increased track
depth. However, this was also noted by Hylgaard and
Liddle (1981), who concluded that more frequently used
tracks wear down fast er than those less frequently used and
the intervals between use are also of importance in that
repeated use over a short period of time can be more
damaging than the same amount of repetitions taking place
over a longer period of time.
The above indicates that trampling and the damage it
causes should be seriously considered when dealing with the
management of sand dune systems used for recreational
purposes. With increased car ownership and the attraction of
the coast and its beaches for recreational purposes, the
pressure on coastal areas and dune systems has greatly
increased. Careful management of coastal areas, especially
those designated for conservation, for example Special Areas
of Conservation (SACs) is required to ensure their protec-
tion. Therefore, when it come to management, it is essential
to consider all impacts on a site under conservation.
Irish sand dune systems under recreational pressure
The Irish coast is under immense pressure from humans.
Not only does Irelands coast al area support 51% of the
Irish population, but ever increasing numbers of people
travel to the coast for recreational purposes (Cabot 1977;
McLeod et al. 2001; Nairn 2005). The overall length of the
Irish coastline is approximately 7,500 km (Marine Institute
1999), half of which is classified as soft coastline which
includes sand dune systems (McLeod et al. 2001).
Irish sand dune systems include a number of different
habitats, described in Fossitt (2000
) as follows. From the
high tide mark up, the first dunes encountered are small
dunes, sparsely vegetated, less than one metre in height, so
called embryonic dunes. These are followed further inland
by marram dunes, which are semi-stabilized with an almost
complete vegetation cover of Ammophila arenaria, which
stabilises the dunes, traps further sand and helps the dunes
to grow to heights of up to 1520 m. Inland from the
marram dunes are the more stable dunes, so called fixed
dunes. These are stabilised hills or ridges with more or less
complete vegetation cover, which occur where the amount
of blown sand is decreased and humus has accumulated in
the soil, increasing the retention of moisture in the sand
(Nairn 2005; Fossitt 2000). These dunes have a more
complete vegetation of herb-r ich grasses or heath, charac-
terised by Red Fescue (Festuca rubra)andLadys
Bedstraw (Galium verum). The fixed dune vegetation is
usually rich in calcicole species (JNCC 2000 ). A rarer
feature of the dune systems is the occurrence of dune
slacks, found behind dunes and in hollows and depressions.
These are low lying enriched wet areas which are at or
close to the water table. They may be influenced by the
tides as the water table lifts and falls with them. Their
vegetation includes many aquatic and wetland species such
as Silverweed (Potentilla anserina) and Wa ter Mint
(Mentha aquatica) (Fossitt 2000).
An Irish dune habitat of particular importance that occurs
within the sites examined in this study is machair. It is one
of the rarest habitats in Europe, found only on the western
seaboard, where it is restricted to the coasts of Britain and
Ireland. Most of this habitat is found on the west coast of
174 G. Kindermann, M.J. Gormally
Scotland, almost half of all machair occurring in the Outer
Hebrides (Angus and Elliott 1992; Love 2003). In Ireland,
machair is limited to the northwest coasts of the country,
from Galway Bay up to Malin Head in Donegal (Quigley
1991). Irish machair is a priority habitat according to the
Habitats Di rective (92/43/EEC) and as such is of special
conservation importance. Scottish machair is not considered
to be a priority habitat as it is much more intensively used
for agriculture than Irish machair. Machairs, the name
coming from Gaelic meaning flat or low-lying, are
extensive, flat or gently sloping plains, vegetated with a
wide variety of herbaceous species. Species typical of
machair include Red Fescue (Festuca rubra), Common
Birds-foot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus), White Clover
(Trifolium repens), Yarrow (Achillea millefolium), Ladys
Bedstraw (Gal ium verum), Ribwort Plantain (Plantago
lanceolata), Eyebright (Euphrasia officinalis) and Daisy
(Bellis perennis) (Fossitt 2000).
When it comes to coasta l conservation, it is these
habitats, contained within sand dune systems, that are
under most pressure from human activity as they are the
main focal points of recreation al activities. The cumulative
effects of pedestrians and vehicles, as well as activities such
as camping, picnicking, walking and caravan use can cause
severe damage to sand dunes and their vegetation (Tourism
Policy Review Group 2003; Quigley 1991). These impacts
are of major concern in all coastal dune systems, but they
pose a particular problem in areas which are designated as
conservation areas, especially when they contain habitats of
special importance such as machair. In this study, the
impacts of recreational activities are considered in relation
to conservation sites designated as SACs according to the
European Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC ). To date, little
research has been carried out in Ireland in relation to the
impacts of recreational activities on sand dune systems.
This study aims to assess these impacts on coastal SACs in
Ireland and to consider the management of areas for
conservation. Orams (1995) suggests that in relation to
wildlife tourism there are four visitor management strate-
gies: a) physical management: referring to the introduction
of physical structures such as boardwalks; b) regulatory
management: which refers to the introduction of rules and
regulations; c) economic management: where charges are
introduced for the use of an area; and d) educational
management: also referred to as soft management. Al-
though these different management strategies were drawn
up in relation to wildlife tourism, they are applicable to any
form of tourism or recreation in natural areas (I-Ling 2002).
Hence all four management strategies should be considered
as possible options in relation to the management of coastal
SACs in Ireland.
The focus of this study is on a coastal SAC containing
sand dune systems as these are fragile in nature but are also
most attr active to touris ts and recreationists, creating
management challenges for the responsible conservation
authorities. It has previously been shown that the impact of
recreation on biodiversity is determined by the activities in
which recreat ionists engage (Coombes and Jones 2010;
Andrés-Abellán et al. 2005; Priskin 2003). This paper
addresses the damage caused by recreationists i n a
particular SAC in the west of Ireland and to pinpoint what
can be learned from this for management of coastal
conservation areas elsewhere.
Study area
This study focuses on three coastal dune areas which are
part of the Slyne Head peninsula candidate Special Area of
Conservation (cSAC) (Fig. 1). The cSAC comprises a
headland located 8 km southwest of the town of Clifden
(population 1,400) in Connemara, County Galway (OSi
grid reference: L60 45).
Bordering the cSAC is the village of Ballyconneely,
which provides services for the area such as a post office,
two shops, a school, a church and a bar/restaurant. A rural
bus stops in the village infrequently, providing a service on
Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays only, where
the bus stops twice a day at the post office. Around
Ballyconneely there are many holiday homes available to
rent, as well as bed and breakfasts and a hotel providing
accommodation for visitors to the area. The camp site at
Aillebrack (Fig. 2) provides further possibilities of accom-
modation while the golf course is a draw for tourists.
The cSAC (23 km
approx.) encompasses a large
number of different habitats from marine to terrestrial to
freshwater, and it is fringed with rocky shores and sandy
beaches. The site was designated as an cSAC due to the
presence of priority habitats listed in Annex I of the EU
Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC), primarily lagoons,
machairs and orchid-rich grasslands. In relation to this
study, machairs are of particular interest as the presence of a
priority dune h abitat was a selection criterion when
selecting study sites. Machairs were chosen as these are
of particular interest in an Irish context, being the only
priority dune habitat to occur only in Ireland, in addition to
the presence of the plant species Petalophyllum ralfsii
(Petalwort) and Najas flexilis (Slender Naiad), both of
which are listed in Annex II of the direc tive (92/43/EEC).
Overall the peninsula is low-lying, with its highest point
being 64 m above sea level. The underlying bedrock is
mostly gneiss except for schist which runs along the
northern shores of Mannin Bay (Fig. 2), a granite ridge
running along the western side of the peninsula and a basalt
outcrop which constitutes the peninsulas highest point
(NPWS 2003).
Vehicle damage on coastal dune systems 175
Fig. 1 Location of Slyne Head
Peninsula cSAC within Ireland
Fig. 2 Map showing all three
study sites, Aillebrack, Truska/
Doonloughan and Mannin, and
further sand dune systems which
were excluded from the study on
the Slyne Head Peninsula as
they were outside the cSAC
borders (OSi 2000)
176 G. Kindermann, M.J. Gormally
As one of the most westerly headlands in County
Galway, the Slyne Head peninsula is exposed to the full
force of the Atlantic Ocean. This not only results in the
annual rainfalls of 1,2001,400 mm (Met Éireann 2008),
but also in strong wes terly winds. It is these winds which
are the force behind the creation of the sand dune systems
on Slyne Head as th ey are a source of windblown
calcareous sands which have an important influence on
the habitats present, especially the sand dune systems and
machairs in particular.
While there are a number of areas containing sandy
beaches and sand dunes on the Slyne Head peninsula,
machair occurs primarily in three coastal dune systems i.e.
Aillebrack (1 km
approx.), Truska/Doonloughan (1.5 km
approx.) and Mannin (1 km
approx.), all of which are part
of this study. All three coastal dune sites fulfilled the
selection criteria for this study in that they are all part of a
cSAC (the same cSAC in this case), they all contain a
priority habitat (mac hair) and they are all subjected to
recreational activity. In terms of site infrastructure, none of
the sites have any major facilities. A summary of the three
study sites is given in Table 1.
Aillebrack is in the south of the Slyne Head peninsula. This
site is unfenced and can be accessed directly from three
roads (1, 2 & 3, Fig. 2). The site extends to both sides of
road 2, the south western part being the larger area, abutting
the coast, while the north eastern part of the site is the
landward side, bordered by road 3. The site is grazed by
cattle and Connemara ponies are raced here for one day
each year in August when the site plays host to a
Connemara pony race. The site also features two sets of
goalposts, one of which is used frequently by the local
community while the other is no longer in use (personal
observation). There are two exclusions from the cSAC at this
dune system, one is the 18-hole Connemara Golf Course,
and the other is a caravan park at the western end of the site.
Both existed before the cSAC was desig nated and they were
excluded from the designation and hence from this study.
Truska/Doonloughan lies to the Northwest of the peninsula.
This site is not fenced and can be accessed anywhere along
road 4 (Fig. 2). The coast on this site is west facing and
exposed to strong prevailing westerly winds. A prominent
sand ridge runs parallel to the coast, part of which is
severely eroded. While up to approximately 15 years ago
the site would have also been grazed by cattle and
Connemara ponies, it is now on ly graz ed by sheep
(Crawford et al. 1996). In the past, landowners would have
used the site as a supply of sand and a number of old
extraction points remain, but these are no longer in use
(ODonnell, pers. comm. 2005). The site has a popular
surfing beach in the Northwest of the site, False Bay
(Fig. 2). The bay is also frequently used as a bathing beach
despite the occurring undercurrents which create the waves
ideal for surfing but make the bay unsafe for swimming .
Further features are prominent kitc hen middens which are
located south of False Bay. These are prehistoric waste
sites, heaps containing mostly shells but also other
materials, and are remnants of settlements from the early
Bronze Age (McCormick et al. 1996). Furthermore there is
a Viking-age farmstead on the site, the only one on the Irish
Table 1 Overview of the three study sites, Aillebrack, Truska/Doonloughan and Mannin at Slyne Head, Ireland
Aillebrack Truska/Doonloughan Mannin
Size 1 km
1.5 km
Aspect Southwest West/Northwest North/Northeast
Ownership Commonage, 12 shareholders Commonage, 13 shareholders Commonage, 20 shareholders
Landuse Cattle grazing Sheep grazing Cattle & Sheep grazing
Pony racing (1 day)
Access roads 1, 2, 3 4 5, 6
Access Unfenced, access open from roads Unfenced, access open from roads Fenced, 3 access points, 2 public
roads, 1 private
Tourism/Recreation Caravan park & golf course
within same dune system
Popular surfing beach Unofficial campsite on site
Visitor numbers
Weekday 2040 2550 2550
Weekend/Holiday 2550 100125 5075
Special Features 2 playing pitches archaeological sites, Annex II spp
(Petalophyllum ralfsii)
Playing pitch, Archaeological sites
As observed at site visits, approx 3 h each, in summer months 2005 during dry, warm weather
Vehicle damage on coastal dune systems 177
west coast, which can be found adjacent to False Bay
(Gibbons and Kelly 2003). The site is also home to the
largest Irish population of the liverwort Petalophyllum
ralfsii (Petalwort) an Annex II species.
Mannin is on the north side of the penins ula and a rock
ridge running parallel to the coast leaves it more sheltered
from the Atlantic winds than the other sites. This site,
unlike the other tw o is fenced off from the road. There are
three entry points into the site (Fig. 2). All entry points have
gates, with the most easterly gate being directly by the side
of road 6 (Fig. 2) while the central entrance is at the end of
a narrow lane leading off road 5 and the most western
entrance is to private grounds. The two public access points
are used by landowners and visitors alike, with the most
easterly one being the more popula r with visitors. In 2001,
one of the shareh olders of the site placed large boulders in a
row a few meters into the site to block vehicular traffic into
the site. Some of these boulders have since been moved but
most still remain in place today. The site is used by a
number of landowners for grazing, for both sheep and
cattle. In the past the site was used for sports and two sets
of goalposts still stand on the site. These are occasionally
used by visitors but no longer by locals (OFlaherty, pers.
comm. 2006). Between the two public entry points, towards
the beaches, a number of caravans are located which remain
there year-round. The camp site is not official and there are
no facilities for campers on the site. The site also contains a
number of archaeological remains, which include kitchen
middens, shell heaps, created by settlers from the Bronze-
Age to Medieval times (Gosling 1993).
Habitat mapping and damage assessment
In this study, habitats were ident ified in the field using A
Guide to Irish Habitats by Fossitt (2000). Fossi tt operates
on three levels with 11 broad habitat groups at level one, 30
habitat subgroups at level 2 and 117 habitats at level 3.
With the guide come draft guidelines on its use (Heritage
Council 2002). These guidelines sugges t survey methods
broadly comparable to the British Phase 1 Habitat Survey
methodology (JNCC 2003).
Having carried out a pre-survey desk study of aerial
photographs an d other relevant materials such as six-inch
maps (OSi 2003) and draft management plans of the area
(NPWS 1998), field visits were undertaken to the study
sites between April 2005 and June 2005 and again in
August and September 2007. Using orthocorrected aerial
photographs of the study area (OSi 2000, 2004, 2006), the
habitats present at the three sample sites were identified.
The Heritage Council guidelines recommend classifying
and recording all habitats of 0.25 ha (50 m
) in size and
taking field notes in which to specify if further habitats,
plants or features of interest are present. While this
approach was taken in this study, some habitat patches,
particularly sand blowouts, often smaller than 0.25 ha but
still visible on the aerial photographs, were also mapped.
During the habit at mapping process, special attention was
paid to damage which was present in different habitats. Of
the damage noted, tracks created by vehicles or through
trampling were of particular interest and the severity of
these tracks and trails was ranked. This was done according
to a scale from one to three, one being the least and three
being the most severely damaged (Table 2).
Following habitat classification and the damage assess-
ment process, the data from the maps, aerial photographs and
field notes were transferred to ArcGIS (edition 9.2) and
digital habitat maps were produced. The habitat maps for
2007 and 2005 were based on aerial photographs and
fieldwork data which was carried out in 2007 and 2005
respectively, while the maps for 2000 and 1973 were based
on aerial photographs alone as the dates when the latter
photographs were taken fall outside the time period of this
study. These maps were produced to determine changes to
the habitats of the sites over time due to tourism impacts.
While the aerial photographs for 2000 were in colour and
habitat identification could be based on comparisons with the
more recent aerial photographs, the 1973 aerial photographs
were in black and white and a different approach had to be
taken when interpreting these. For the 1973 photographs the
only distinctions that could be made were between vegeta-
tion cover, rock, sand and blown sand covering vegetation so
only these habitat groups were recorded. In order to compare
these to the other maps created, the habitats maps for 2000,
2005 and 2007 were subsequently grouped into the same
categories as for 1973 (Table 3).
Tracks were added once the digital habitat maps were
completed with the track maps for 2005 and 2007 being
based on aeria l photographs and field work data, while the
Table 2 Ranking system for tracks surveyed at Aillebrack, Truska/
Doonloughan and Mannin at Slyne Head, Ireland
Level Track Damage
0 No tracks No damage
1 Emerging tracks, old
disused tracks
Track clearly visible but still
covered by vegetation
2 Used tracks Vegetation cover eroded, but
sand not or only slightly eroded
3 Frequently used tracks No vegetation cover, sand cover
eroded or severely eroded
178 G. Kindermann, M.J. Gormally
track maps for 2000 and 197 3 were based on a erial
photographs alone. The tracks could be recognised in both
the 2000 and 1973 photographs but without field compar-
isons the level of accuracy when mapping these is lower
than that of the 2005 and 2007 maps. However, based on
comparisons with the maps from 2005 and 2007 and on the
good quality of the aerial photographs used, it can be
assumed that the earlier track maps display a high level of
exactness. The same ranking system was used throughout
the study, with the caveat that the earlier maps were based
on aerial photographs alone while those for 2005 and 2007
were ground truthed.
Questionnaires were used to gain an overview of recrea-
tional activities carried out in the coastal conservation area.
This information was gathered to serve as indicator in
relation to recreational activity. To ensure that the survey
questionnaire was designed appropriately, a pilot study was
conducted at a nearby site, Gurteen Bay/Dogs Bay, Co.
Galway, which is similar i n habit at composition and
recreational acti vity to the sample sites. The questionnaire
was designed with a mixture of different types of questions
including both open and closed questions.
Closed questions were used where the possible answers
were restricted to few options, although in some cases the
option other was provided in case not all possible
responses had been considered in the questionnaire design.
Open questions were used to encourage respondents to
phrase their opinions on matters such as their reasons for
choosing that particular site or proposing changes to site
access. Both types of questions were designed to be easy to
understand and phrased in such a way as to not lead
respondents towards a particular answer.
Overall the questionnaires were used to sample a cross
section of the visitors who came to the sample sites. A total
of 60 people answered the questionnaires in August 2005,
20 visitors at each site. This was deeme d adequate as the
questionnaire results were merely meant to serve as
indicators of recreational activity in addition to observed
behaviour and habitat data accumulated. All respondents
were chosen at random from the recreationists present at the
sample site on the days of the survey. Of those who were
approached, all responded and th ere were no no n-
Results & discussion
Habitat maps
Table 4 shows the results obtained from the habitat maps,
displaying the percentage area of vegetation, rock and sand
for all sites as well as the percentage area for the different
habitats present for 2000, 2005 and 2007.
Table 4 includes all the habitats found at Aillebrack,
Mannin and Truska/Doonloughan from 1973 to 2007. The
list includes the individual categories as well as mosaics or
combinations (such as fixed dune and exposed siliceous
rock mosaic or machair/fixed dune) where the separation of
the individual habitats was not possible. Most of the
habitats occur in all three sites but some wer e particular
to one or two sites.
It is clear from Table 4 that the data for the percentage
cover of vegetation, rock and sand remains broadly similar
for the period from 2000 to 2007, while the percentage
cover for 1973 is lower for all three sites. This is due to
major changes in sand and vegetation cover over time.
Many of the sand areas that were visible on the 1973 aerial
photograph were covered by vegetation in 2000.These were
most likely areas of blown sand and marram dunes which in
the intervening period of 27 years have become stabilised
and colonised by dune vegetation. This is especially
apparent at Truska/Doonloughan where the percentage
cover of v egetatio n cha nged from 44.5% in 1973 to
81.3% in 2000, where areas of blown sand have become
machair grasslands and moving dunes have become
stabilised. This is a process common in dune systems
which are highly dynamic by nature and was most likely
accelerated by the build up of sand on the dune ridge itself,
causing the height of the ridge to increase and thereby
provide more shelter for the area behind.
As for the percentage cover of the different habitat types
listed, the most prominent differences are between 2000
and 2005. Similar to the differences in vegetation and sand
cover between 1973 and 2000, these changes in the areas
covered by different habitats are probably due to dune
Table 3 Summary of habitat information used for the habitat maps for Aillebrack, Truska/Doonloughan and Mannin at Slyne Head, Ireland
Year 1973 2000 2005 2007
Aerial photograph black & white colour colour (2004) colour (2006)
Field work no no yes yes
Habitat map 1. sand/rock/vegetation 1. sand/rock/vegetation 1. sand/rock/vegetation 1. sand/rock/vegetation
2. all habitats 2. all habitats 2. all habitats
Vehicle damage on coastal dune systems 179
stabilisation which tends to alter dune systems over time,
considering that they are changeable and dynamic in nature.
However, it is also possible that the changes in habitat
cover are due to the different habitat mapping techniques
used. As the habitat maps for 2000 are based on aerial
photographs alone there is a possibility that they are less
accurate then the maps for 2005 and 2007 which were
created from field work and aerial photographs. However it
is unlikely that the changes, which are large, would be due
to this fact alone.
While many studies have been carried out on the impacts
such as loss of vegetation cover and cha nges in botanical
composition caused by trampling and vehicle use on
habitats (Westhoff 1967; Liddle 1975; Liddle and Greig-
Smith 1975a, b; Hylgaard and Liddle 1981; Luckenbach
and Bury 1983; Andersen 1995 ; Cole 1995a, b), this study
focused on the distribution of the tracks created by
recreationists driving to coastal conservation sites as well
as the overall damage caused by vehicles driving o n coastal
Site damage and track creation
The damage caused by cars driving onto the study sites was
assessed by recording the different types of tracks (Table 2)
present at the sites. This was then compared to the activities
recreationists were recorded and observed to be carrying
out at the sites.
The habitat maps created for each site were used to
assess the track damage to the different habitats over time
(Table 5). The damage to the Ailleb rack and Truska/
Doonloughan sites shows an overall increase from 1973
to 2007. For 1973, it is only possible to give overall site
Table 4 Percentage area for all habitat groups (sand/rock/vegetation)
and habitats (19732007) present at all three study sites, Aillebrack,
Truska/Doonloughan and Mannin, based on the habitat maps created
from aerial photographs and field work (2005 & 2007). Figures are
rounded to one decimal place. (Does not include percentage cover of
flowerbeds and borders which were also present at Truska/Doon-
loughan and Aillebrack, but excluded in the habitat cover as they were
outside the cSAC border)
Aillebrack Truska/Doonloughan Mannin
Habitat 1973 2000 2005 2007 1973 2000 2005 2007 1973 2000 2005 2007
Vegetation 61.5 69.3 66.0 68.1 44.5 81.3 80.8 81.4 41.2 60.0 59.5 60.7
1. Drainage ditches 0.2 0.2 0.5 ––– 0.3 0.3 0.3
2. Dry calcareous grassland 5.0 5.2 5.2 0.5 1.0 0.9 0.7 1.2 1.4
3. Dry calc. grass/Exposed rock 0.5 0.5 0.3 ––– –––
4. Dry siliceous heath ––– 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.4
5. Dry siliceous heath/Exposed rock ––– 1.1 1.2 1.4
6. Dune slacks 0.3 0.5 0.8 2.3 0.7 0.5 –––
7. Fixed dune 15.7 17.0 14.7 6.9 12.4 12.8 4.0 7.9 11.0
8. Fixed dune/Exposed rock 4.0 3.00 4.7 5.4 6.2 6.2 5.5 5.9 4.2
9. Fixed dune/Machair 8.8 13.3 11.2 17.4 12.5 12.6 25.1 19.4 20.1
10. Fixed dune/Marram dune 1.0 –– 1.3 2.2 0.3 0.1
11. Fixed dune/Wet grassland ––– 0.9 3.4 1.9 –––
13. Machair 31.1 25.6 29.7 26.0 24.9 26.9 16.5 19.4 19.3
17. Machair/Exposed rock 0.1 0.2 0.1 ––
15. Marram dune 2.1 0.4 0.5 11.1 7.4 7.7 2.8 2.1 1.0
16. Rich fen & Flush ––– 7.6 7.6 8.2 0.1 ––
17. Scrub 0.02 0.02 0.02 ––– –––
18. Wet grassland ––– 2.0 2.4 3.6 2.3 1.9 1.6
Rock 17.6 18.2 21.3 21.2 10.2 6.4 6.3 6.5 14.5 13.5 13.6 13.1
1. Exposed rocky shore 18.2 20.9 21.0 6.0 6.1 6.1 11.3 11.6 12.0
2. Exposed siliceous rock 0.4 0.2 0.1 0.1 2.2 2.0 1.1
3. Shingle & Gravel bank ––– 0.2 0.2 0.3 –––
Sand 20.9 12.5 12.7 10.7 45.4 12.3 12.9 12.1 44.4 27.6 26.9 26.6
1. Blowout 0.5 1.4 0.9 3.8 4.1 3.3 3.7 1.4 0.8
2. Sand shores 12.0 11.3 9.8 8.5 8.8 8.8 24.0 25.5 25.8
180 G. Kindermann, M.J. Gormally
damage as different dune habitats cannot be differentiated
from the black and white aerial photographs. At these two
sites, the habitats most damaged by tracks for 2000 to 2007
are fixed dune and machair, either as a habitat on their own
or in a mosaic with each other, marram dunes, or exposed
siliceous rock. At Mannin, the percentage of damaged area
to the overall area increased initially from 1973 to 2000 and
then decreased after 2000, presumably after 2001 when the
boulder barricade was erected, decreasing vehicular access.
The habitat most damaged over the years in this case was
machair, either on its own or in a mosaic with other
habitats. For all three sites, the habitats most damaged
constitute the level and firm parts of the sites and are
mostly found near the shore. This indicates that the flat
parts of the site are most attractive for vehicle traffic due to
their stability and the easy manner with which vehicles can
move over them.
Having established the overall damage and damage to
dune habitats for each site, the next step was a detailed
evaluation of the created track maps to investigate the
changes in tracks over time for each of the three sites
(Fig. 3).
The track maps show the track patterns created at each of
the sites as well as the changes in track categories. In
relation to track pattern, it is obvious that at each site the
tracks fan out from a number of access points off the roads
leading to or through the sites. In the case of Aillebrack,
there are six access points in 1973, eleven in 2000, 15 in
2005 and 18 in 2007, a pattern that can also be observed at
Truska/Doonloughan, where access points increase from
four in 1973 to 10 in 2007. At both sites the original access
points remain in use, some move slightly to either side of
the original access point while new access points are
created along the access roads over the years. Mannin
differs from this pattern as there are only two public access
points into the site, which remain constant over the years.
From these points the tracks lead further into the site,
fanning out and creating a network of tracks. This
distribution pattern is commonly observed in off-road
driving as is the creation of new access points (Priskin
2003). What is interesting is the comparison to Mannin,
which is fenced with only two access points. This seems to
suggest that a simple measure as restricted access can
reduce the number of access points created and potentially
reduce the number of tracks on a site.
The assessment of the tracks created at the three sites
showed the change over time in the amount of area (in km
the tracks took up (Fig. 4).
Figure 4 shows that for all three sites there was an
increase in track area from 1973 to 2000. For both Aillebrack
and Truska/Doonloughan the rise continued steadily until
2007. At Mannin however, after an initial increase the path
area decreased and remained the same until 2007. The
overall results indicate that there was a steady increase in
track creation across Aillebrack and Truska/Doonloughan,
which is most likely due to increased vehicular traffic at
these sites. At Mannin the decrease in track area in 2005 and
2007 was probably because vehicle access to the site became
restricted when boulders were placed close the most easterly
entry point into the site in 2001.
Figure 5a and b show that at Aillebrack and Truska/
Doonloughan the area of all tracks rose steadily from 1973 to
2005, indicating a steady flow of traffic across both sites.
After that there is a decease in category 2 tracks at both those
sites. In both cases some of the category 2 tacks developed
into category 3 tracks while some reverted back to category
1 tracks, with vegetation having recolonised the bare ground
of the tracks. This is particularly evident at Aillebrack
(Fig. 3a). However, some of the category 2 tracks also
disappeared entirely, something which is particularly evident
Table 5 Damage to the habitats at Aillebrack, Truska/Doonloughan and Mannin from 1973 to 2007. Damage is recorded as damage to the overall
site, followed by all the different vegetation types
Aillebrack Truska/Doonloughan Mannin
1973 2000 2005 2007 1973 2000 2005 2007 1973 2000 2005 2007
% of overall site damaged: 0.65 2.87 3.52 3.82 0.67 2.40 3.05 3.34 1.26 2.64 2.16 2.19
% of each dune habitat damaged:
Dune Slacks –– 3.63 0.43 –––
Fixed Dune 8.05 9.00 9.72 3.63 5.82 6.45 0.82 2.6 2.11
Fixed Dune/Exposed Rock 6.38 6.87 9.21 0.16 0.18 0.66 1.01 0.17
Fixed Dune/Machair 7.08 7.83 7.66 6.27 5.94 5.66 6.54 4.85 4.48
Fixed Dune/Marram Dune 16.79 –– 7.63 5.86 –––
Machair 1.77 2.36 3.63 2.89 5.24 5.66 7.19 4.21 4.80
Machair/Exposed Rock –– 1.66 ––– –––
Marram Dune 0.26 1.74 1.01 1.11 3.03 0.70 ––
Vehicle damage on coastal dune systems 181
at the eastern side of Truska/Doonloughan (Fig. 3b). This
can be attributed to a change in use of the tracks. Some of
the formerly well used tracks have become less used, while
others have become more intensively used and even new
ones were created that were so intensively used over the
2 year period between being surveyed, that they went from
not being present to category 3, as is the case at the case at
the north-western part of Truska/Doonloughan (Fig. 3b).
What is also very obvious from the track maps is that at
Truska/Doonloughan the more intensively used tracks were
towards the coast, while the change to lesser used tracks and
the tracks which disappeared were at the landward side of
the site. At Aillebrack this pattern was less obvious, with the
circular track from the pony racing contributing to the
changes in tracks also.
Mannin, however, presents a different picture. Here there
was an increase in all track categories till 2000, after which
there were marked changes in track categories. These
changes can be attributed to the restricted access to the site
from 2001. What is especially striking is the change in
category 1 tracks. These drop from 2000 to 2005 by 24.9%,
before increasing to 124.2% of the 2000 figures in 2007.
Here the initial decrease can be attributed to an initial loss
in category 1 tracks due to decreased traffic across the site,
before the numbers increase again due to category 2 tracks
decreasing in severity to category 1 levels (Fig. 3c). The
changes from category 3 to 2 is less pronounced, due to the
fact that most of the category 3 tracks are at the entrance to
the site, before the boulder barricade, hence these have a
higher intensity of use. Overall it can be said that the track
changes at all three sites indicate that the intensity of use
plays a major part in the creation of track s and in the
amount of erosion that takes place on the tracks. This
corresponds to the findings by Weaver and Dale (1978)
1973 2000 2005 2007
1973 2000 2005 2007
1973 2000 2005 2007
a Aillebrack
a Aillebrack
b Truska/Doonloughan
b Truska/Doonloughan
c Mannin
c Mannin
Fig. 3 a, b,&c Maps displaying the change in track area for
all track categories (1 = Track clearly visible but still covered by
vegetation, 2 = Vegetation cover eroded, but sand not or only slightly
eroded & 3 = No vegetation cover, sand cover eroded or severely
eroded) over time (19732007) at Aillebrack
182 G. Kindermann, M.J. Gormally
who concluded that trail depth increased with use up to 1,000
passesandwithSchofield(1967) who reported that on grey
dunes exposure of sand and soil occurred after 4,000 passages.
Also, frequency of use also plays an important role. The more
frequently a tracks is used, the faster it wears down and the
intervals between use are also of importance, as repeated use
over a short period of time can be more damaging than the
same amount of repetitions taking place over a longer period
of time (Hylgaard and Liddle 1981).Thismayverywellbe
the case for these sites, as they are more frequently used in
dry, warm weather, and in the case of T ruska/Doonloughan at
times when the surf is particularly good.
Track distribution
Having investigated the track damage to the site and changes
in damage over time, the track maps were further used to
assess the distribution of the tracks created and if this was
indicative of the recreational activities carried out on the
sites. In order to investigate this, track distribution within
100 m strips was examined, starting at the high water mark
(HWM), working back to the landward end of the site.
Figure 6 shows that at Aillebrack (Fig. 6a) and Mannin
(Fig. 6c) the majority of tracks were located within 200 m
of the HWM, mostly within a distance of 100 to 200 m for
all 4 years of the study. This indicates that access to the
shore is the main reason for vehicle traffic across the site.
From the road the sites are entered via access points by the
road, from which the tracks fan out, with the highest
number of tracks being close to the shore. This is a fan-like
pattern already mentioned above (Fig. 3). At Aillebrack
(Fig. 6a) the increased track creation at 500 to 750 m from
the HWM is due to the road which bisects the site at a
distance of 500 to 600 m from the HWM, leading to
increased traffic around the area. From the road cars are
accessing both sides of the site and the landward side of the
site shows an increased number of tracks where it borders a
lough (lake). The pattern at Mannin (Fig. 6c) is more
limited as the site is only 300 to 400 m wide.
At Truska/Doonloughan (Fig. 6b) the graph shows tracks to
be present at all distances from the shore. This site has one
main beach, False Bay, which is located 1 km from the road.
Although most of the tracks lead to this beach none follow a
straight line but they meander, branch and rejoin throughout
the site (Fig. 3b). These tracks cover the whole extent of the
site, showing the same fan pattern from the access points as in
evident at the other two sites. However the distribution of
tracks within distance zones from the shore displayed in Fig. 6
differs from the other two sites. This is due to the fact that the
site is triangular is shape, with the distance between the road
and the shoreline ranging from 0 m to 1.5 km at Truska/
Doonloughan. Therefore, the measurement of track density
according to distance from the HWM, results in similar
numbers of tracks measu red at all distances. At Truska/
Doonloughan and Mannin very few tracks are present within
100 m of the HWM. This can be attributed to the fact that
there are mostly rocky and sandy shores within this area
which are not accessible for vehicles, although the few areas
that are accessible show increases in tracks in 2005 and 2007.
Overall the distribution of tracks shows that there are a
higher numbe r of tracks at the shore, which seems to be the
1973 2000 2005 2007
Area in Square Kilometer
Fig. 4 Changes in area cover (km
) the tracks took up at all three
study sites, Aillebrack (A), Truska/Doonloughan (T/D) and Mannin
Fig. 5 a, b & c Changes in
track cover for all three track
categories (1, 2 & 3) over time
for all three study sites, Aille-
brack (a), Truska/Doonloughan
(b) and Mannin (c), in m
Vehicle damage on coastal dune systems 183
main target of vehicles crossing the sites. Most of the tracks
also terminate at the shore (Fig. 3), which indicates that
most people who travel to the site and travel across it wish
to access the beaches for recreational activities. This is
further confirmed by observation and results form the
indicator questionnaire. Observations made at site visits
showed that recreationists visited the sites to go swimming,
walking or surfing. This was confirmed by the question-
naire results, which showed that when questioned on the
primary activity recreationists came to carry out those three
activities scored highest (29% swimming, 21% surfing,
16% walking). Where the answer walking was given, the
addition by the sea was made by 90% of respondents.
These results indicate that recreationists came to the site to
carry out these water-based activities, making it evident that
the majority of recreationists coming to the sites do so with
the specific aim of spending their visit on the beach or
in the water. This corresponds to the track creation patterns
in that most tracks created were within close proximity of
the HWM and hence the shore. Access to the shore is the
main objective of the majority of visitors to all three study
sites. Further evidence of this was found when observing
the parking patt erns recreationists exhibited at the sites.
Most recreationists drove to the sites (85% accordi ng to
questionnaire results), with the remainder having walked or
cycled (2% of interviewees). The closest form of public
transport, the bus stop in Ballyconneely, is over 2 km away,
therefore the easiest form of access for those who travelled
from further away was the car. Hence the parking of
vehicles was of interest , especially since only one of the
sites (Aillebrack) had a car park near by. Most recreationists
were observed parking near the beaches of the sites, on the
machair and fixed dune habitats closest to the sandy shores.
Again the questionnaires gave further proof of this
behaviour, with 54% of people stating that they had parked
on the dune grasslands, while 17% stated they had parked
on the actual beaches. At the site where access was limited,
people had also parked at the road verge (57% of
interviewees at Mannin) while at Aillebrack, where a car
park and caravan park were available, recreationists had
also used these facilities for parking (4% of the total
number at each facility). Since the main road runs through
the site and is only about 500 m away form the shore, the
distance to get to the shore is not too great at this site,
which also seems to encourage people to park at the road
side (21% of interviewees at Aillebrack). Aillebrack also
had a higher percent age of people (15% of those asked),
who came to carry out activities such as golf which would
promote parking away from the shore as the sea was non-
essential to the carrying out of those activities. This
suggests that where access is restricted, fewer recreationists
will park on the dune grasslands, while where facilities are
provided, these will be used. At Truska/Doonloughan,
which has open access from the road and where there are
no parking facilities provided, all respondents had either
parked on the beach or the dune habitats behind this. At this
site the link between activities and parking is particularly
obvious since most people come to surf. This is only
possible at one of a number of beaches at the site (False
Bay) which is about 1 km from the road into the site. To get
Fig. 6 a, b & c Distribution of track area at all three study sites, Aillebrack (a), Truska/Doonloughan (b) and Mannin (c), in m
in relation to the
shoreline, indicated by the High Water Mark (HWM)
184 G. Kindermann, M.J. Gormally
to the site people drive across the site and park their car
either on the grassland by the beach or even on the surfing
beach itself to avoid having to carry their equipment long
Overall, considering all three sites, the fact that visitors
parked on the grassland, which includes the priority habitat
machair, corresponds to the veh icular traffic across the site
and the activ ities people stated to be carrying out at the
sites. However, what is evident is that even simple
measures, such as limit ed access or even the provision of
parking facilities, has some impact on the behaviour of
recreationists on site. A further indication of this is the
response interviewees gave in relation to their knowledge
of the conservation status of the sites visited. Of those
asked, the majority (62%) were not aware that they were
visiting a site of conservation status and 77% felt that the
information available on the conservation site was inade-
quate. While the number of interviewees was limited, it still
gave an indication that if information were available it
might influence the behaviour of those visiting the sites for
recreation purposes.
Management options
Considering the conservation status of the studied sites and
the impacts of vehicle traffic across the dune systems by
recreationists, the need for management of these and other
coastal dune systems becomes apparent. In order to prevent
damage to conservation sit es w hile still allowing for
recreational a ctivities to take place, management in
required. Ora ms (1995) suggests four visitor management
strategies for the management of wildlife tourism which can
be applied to any natural area under recreational pressure
(I-Ling 2002). These are: a) physical management; b)
regulatory manag ement; c) economic management; and d)
educational management. These should all be considered as
possible options in relation to the management of coastal
areas used for recreational activities.
a) Physical mana gemen t strategies: relate to physical
structures which may be put in place to manage visitors
to sensitive areas (McArthur and Hall 1993; Curthoys
1998). In relation to recreationists using vehicles in
conservation areas, this would include access routes,
for example paved or gravelled paths, but also fences to
stop visitors from entering sensitive areas. The positive
effect of this can be seen in this study at the Mannin
site, where track creation was reduced due to limited
access. Car parks, which in some cases are limited in
size to keep visitor numbers down, could also be used.
The results at Aillebrack suggest that the presence of
car parks may also reduce the number of vehicles
driving and parking on a conservation site. In dune
systems it is important to consider the dynamic nature
of these habitats and to avoid disturbing the dynamics
of these systems when constructing any facilities (Van
der Meulen and Salman 1996).
b) Regulatory management strategies refer to establishing
and imposing rules and regulations for sites to ensure
visitors to a site behave appropriately during their visit
(Orams 1995). This would include restricted access at
certain time periods, the prohibition of certain behav-
iour such as speed and noise limits or prohibition to
have camp fires.
c) Economic management strategies use pricing to influ-
ence visitor behaviour. By charging for access to a
certain resource or charging for parking, some visitors
will be disinclined to visit the site and this will reduce
visitor numbers (I-Ling 2002). Another way to apply
this strategy is by imposing fines for undesirable
behaviour, for example fining people for camping
outside of designated areas or for driving outside of
designated routes.
d) Educational management refers to the provision of
information and interpretation material relating to a
resource which is being used by tourists and recre-
ationists (Cooper et al. 1998). Inappropriate behaviour
is often the result of the fact that visitors are unaware of
the sensitivity of an area, and the provision of
information may influence visitor behaviour.
When considering these management strategies it is
important to realise that not all will be suitable for a certain
site and not all strategies will always be required at the
same site or at the same time. However, it is also important
to realise that different strategies may need to be employed
in combination with each other to be successful. For
example educational strategies tend to be required for
physical and regulatory management to be successful as
people are more likely to use facilities and comply with
regulations if they are aware of the reasons for their
The question is which management strategies should be
employed to successfully manage coastal SACs containing
sand dune systems to ensure their conservation while also
allowing recreational activities to take place. When consid-
ering which management option is most suited to the
situation at a site, all factors investigated were taken into
account. This includes the current state of the site in
relation to damage and visitor activity at each site.
There is often a lack of knowledge in relation to
damaging activities and in relation to the status of an area.
In this case there is a need for information, which can only
be provided by introducing educational measures. These
include educational signs or panels at each of the sites,
firstly to label the site as a conservation site, but also to
Vehicle damage on coastal dune systems 185
provide information on the different habitats and features
present at the sites. For coastal conservation sites the signs
should include information on the dune habitats present at
the sites, in particular machair or other priority habitats,
while also providing information on special animal and
plant species present at the sites. Attention should be paid
to special features present at the sites, as for example at
Truska/Doonloughan and Mannin which contain archaeo-
logical sites which should also be included in the
information panels. The aim is for the signs or panels to
inform visitors, encourage desirable behaviour on the sites
and also to ensure visitors are safe.
In order to further encourage visitors to behave in a
manner that ensures enjoyment of the site on their part but
also prevents damage to the sites, the educational signs
could also include regulatory measures in the form of
behaviour rules. The introduction of rules improves the
effectiveness of the above measures as clearly stated rules
will encourage p ositive behaviour such as the use of
physical facilities and discourage inappropriate behaviour
of which visitors were previously unaware. These rules in
combination with the site information will provide visitors
with insight as to why these rules are necessary and how
desired behaviour can protect the sites and their featu res. At
sites where vehicle damage is a problem the regulatory
rules should restrict vehicle use to prevent further damage
to the dune habitats present. In relation to regulations this
includes the signposting of existing car parks or other
facilities that may be available.
At sites suffering from vehicle related damage, where
track creation shows direct links t o the recreational
activities carried out at the sites, there is a need to control
vehicle access. This can be done by limiting access points
to the site, for example by fencing the site and providing
gates allowing only pedestrians onto the site. If fencing is
undesirable, which can be the case if sites are used for
additional purposes such as animal grazing, then other
methods of vehicle restriction should be considered. This
could for example be facilitated by a series of pollards,
preventing cars from entering but allowing free passage to
livestock or by using low beams or railway sleepers which
are low enough to be stepped over by livestock. Further
options to be considered here are the provision of car
parking facilities and the provision of roads or set tracks
into the sites. In relation to this it is important to consider
current parking patterns of visitors and the uses of the site
to optimise the effectiveness of these facilities. However, it
is also important to include the views of visitors in this who
had reservations about the creation of those kinds of
facilities. At Aillebrack, the site where car parking is
provided close by, this essentially means the prevention of
vehicles driving i nto t he site and possibly providing
additional car parking.
Economic management options are generally employed to
reduce or control the visitor number to an area. These should
only be considered where excessive numbers of recreation-
ists frequent a site. If it is simply recreationists behaviour
that is causing the problem, then economic measures would
be unnecessary. The above mentioned management measures
should be sufficient to ensure conservation of the sites by
providing information, regulation and facilities to prevent
further major damage to the sites.
For all these measures to be successful it is important to
ensure landowner involvement, first and foremost for their
permission to implement the measures but also for their
support as case studies suggest that the involvement of
locals in the management processes is most effective when
it is co-operative, collaborative, representative of the local
community, informed and committed to the common
agenda (McLeod et al. 2001).
The scenic landscapes of Ireland are one of the countrys
most valuable resources. A survey by Fáilte Ireland (the
Irish tourist board) revealed that, in 2005, 82% of tourists
who came to Ireland rated scenery as a main reason for
visiting the country, while 77% said the natural unspoilt
environment was a big attraction for them (Matthews
2006). If the tourism industry wants to ensure further
growth of the industry, it is essential that the natural
habitats of Ireland are maintained. This requires manage-
ment. At the same time it is essential that Ireland complies
with its European obligati ons to protect its valuable habitats
in accordance with the Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC).
This also requires management. As both tourism and
conservation rely on the maintenance and possibly im-
provement of natural areas and since the two impact on
each other, it seems obvious that the management strategies
of nature conservation areas should include recre ation
management. This study aimed to assess the impacts of
recreation, which is a vital part of the tourism sector, on
coastal conservation areas containing sand dune systems
and interpret the needs of both conservation and recreation
to sustainably manage the sites.
To date, uncontrolled access has caused environmental
degradation to the Slyne Head cSAC dune systems. Vehicle
movements by visitors have damaged the dune habitats,
have created tracks throughout the sites which have
worsened with incre ased vehicular traffic on the sites. As
the main point of focus for the activities at the sites is the
sea, most traffic movement is directed towards the shore
and within the first few hundred meters of the HWM is
where most tracks are found. This is most likely the case in
any coastal dune system which is accessible to vehicles and
186 G. Kindermann, M.J. Gormally
where recreationists use cars to get to their destination. In
order to control these impacts on the coastal dune systems,
management is required.
The examples given in this study suggest that even the
provision of simple measures may be sufficient to reduce
track creation and erosion due to vehicle traffic over dune
grasslands. Orams (1995) suggests four different strategies
for the management of visitors to wildlife areas. These
should all be consi dered when trying to find management
solutions for coastal dune areas under recreation al pressure.
However, it is essential to asses s damage ca used by
recreationists at each site, and consider the usefulness of
each of the management options accordingly.
Acknowledgements This research was funded by the Irish Research
Council for Science, Engineering and Technology through the
EMBARK Initiative. Thanks are also given to the National Park and
Wildlife Services, especially Ger ODonnell for their cooperation
throughout the project. The authors wish to thank the respondents of
the survey, plus the members of the Applied Ecology Unit of the
National University of Ireland, Galway for their support.
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188 G. Kindermann, M.J. Gormally
... Human populations continue to grow, causing an acceleration in the destruction of natural resources and creating a massive impact on ecosystems across the globe (Defeo et al., 2009). Natural dynamics of the dune systems, such as dune movement and sand deposition patterns, are being compromised due to recreational activities (Kindermann and Gormally, 2010). Locals and residents are an issue, but tourists are also a leading factor in the deterioration of the dune systems (Moreno and Amelung, 2009). ...
... Human infrastructure and development are dangerously close to the shores (e.g., beach resorts, hotels, RV parks, and golf courses) and contribute to coastal erosion (Kindermann and Gormally, 2010). Two significant issues with coastal development include the open access to coastlines and the lack of parking facilities and their proximity to beaches (Kindermann and Gormally, 2010). ...
... Human infrastructure and development are dangerously close to the shores (e.g., beach resorts, hotels, RV parks, and golf courses) and contribute to coastal erosion (Kindermann and Gormally, 2010). Two significant issues with coastal development include the open access to coastlines and the lack of parking facilities and their proximity to beaches (Kindermann and Gormally, 2010). These issues attract vehicles and people to flatter areas of dunes, thus causing damage to the dune habitat (Kindermann and Gormally, 2010). ...
Coastal sand dunes are fragile ecosystems that serve as natural defenses to protect the adjacent mainland by absorbing the impacts and energy from severe storms. Different efforts have been taken to restore coastal sand dunes, focusing on foredunes. However, there are many strategies involved with coastal restoration and one superior technique has not been found to be the best. Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) supply a range of limiting nutrients (N, P, Fe, and Zn) to the host plant while improving dune stability. This study aimed to assess and compare the diversity of the indigenous AMF community associated with sea oats at Jekyll and Tybee Islands on Georgia’s coast. This study analyzed the difference between natural and restored dunes concerning AMF assemblages and the chemical content of the soil and sea oat leaves. On each site, samples were collected by minimum disturbance from dune ridges that were randomly selected where sea oats were present. Whole genomic DNA was extracted from soil and sea oats roots and were sent out to be replicated. Soil and leaf samples were taken and was sent to be chemically analyzed. A total of thirteen AMF species were identified, and seven of the thirteen species were identifiable at the species level. The remainder was left as unclassified. The most abundant genera were Glomus, and the most abundant species were unclassified Glomus species, followed by Glomus custos and Glomus deserticola. The findings from this study imply that there are potentially undescribed taxa of AMF waiting to be discovered.
... Plant species also play an important role in ecosystem functions, such as nitrification and nutrient cycling. Current threats to coastal systems, such as erosion, have been intensified by human interference via recreational and exploitive activities, and in some cases have resulted in the stabilisation of dune habitat (Kindermann and Gormally, 2010) via soil compaction and increased erosion susceptibility via vegetation openings (blowouts) that exposed larger areas to erosion (Liddle and Grieg-Smith, 1975;Cooper et al., 2005). The main effect of this is a loss of important vegetation structure and habitat that reduces the system's ability to absorb energy from storm events. ...
... For example, Trifolium repens (white clover), abundant in many coastal grassland communities, is capable of fixing nitrogen. Current threats to coastal systems, such as erosion, have been intensified by human interference via recreational and exploitive activities, and in some cases have resulted in the stabilisation of dune habitat (Kindermann and Gormally, 2010) via soil compaction and increased erosion susceptibility via vegetation openings (blowouts) that exposed larger areas to erosion (Liddle and Grieg-Smith, 1975;Cooper et al., 2005). The main effect of this is a loss of important vegetation structure and habitat that reduces the system's ability to absorb energy from storm events. ...
... Off-road vehicle (ORV) disturbance is an anthropogenic press disturbance that is increasingly threatening coastal ecosystems [108,109]. In general, recreational disturbances result in a decrease of species diversity [19,[110][111][112]. ...
... Motorbikes, 4 × 4 vehicles and quad bikes are driven on beaches and dunes for recreation purposes [113]. These vehicles can cause more widespread damage than human trampling [109,114,115], another disturbance that is a widely reported issue for fragile coastal biodiversity [110][111][112][115][116][117]. The negative impacts ORVs cause include damage of the physical properties and stability of the substrate, destruction of vegetation, and disturbing, injuring or killing fauna [108,114,[118][119][120][121]. ...
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Coastal dune habitats have been declining globally over the last several decades due to rapid urbanization. Within remaining dune systems, dune fixation has resulted in further losses of mobile dunes with negative impacts on their associated species. Some studies suggest vegetation removal can initially promote habitat heterogeneity, and increase availability of suitable habitats for psammophile, xeric and endemic mobile dune species, but longer-term responses are generally unknown. We investigated the temporal trends of four taxonomic groups to determine the effect of vegetation removal on dune assemblages over a 12-year period at an LTER site. Three different forms of removal are investigated here—removal in a grid form on fixed dunes, removal of the wind-facing slope vegetation on semi-fixed dunes and opportunistic off-road driving on disturbed dunes. Results were varied across taxa, highlighting the need for multi-taxa monitoring in conservation and restoration management. Overall, fixed dune treatment had very little effect, while a stronger response was found in semi-fixed treatments in particular for mobile dune indicator species, which showed evidence of recolonization within a few years following treatment. Disturbed dunes were most similar to mobile dunes for animal taxa indicating that pulse removal may not be as effective as continuous press disturbance. Nevertheless, a less destructive form of disturbance such as re-introduction of grazing might be preferable and requires further investigation.
... Coastal dunes line much of the Pacific Coast of North America, from the Mexican border to British Columbia, comprising 42% of the California, Oregon, and Washington coastline [5,6] but only 10% of the British Columbia coastline [7]. West coast dunes have, in many places, been replaced or degraded by residential, commercial, and industrial development and recreational vehicle use [7,8]. ...
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The invasive ecosystem engineer Ammophila arenaria, native to Europe, was first introduced to California (USA) in 1896. More than a century later, it has come to dominate coastal foredune vegetation on the west coast of North America to the near exclusion of native species. A. arenaria builds a narrow, steep, peaked, and densely vegetated foredune, in contrast to the broad, more sparsely vegetated foredunes built by the native Elymus mollis. As such, it has modified dune processes by fixing the foredune and disrupting exchange of sediment between the beach, foredune, and dunefield. In the 1930s the congener A. breviligulata, native to the east coast and Great Lakes USA, was first introduced to Oregon, and has been displacing A. arenaria in southern Washington. Ammophila spp. have drastically reduced biodiversity, outcompeting native plant species, and displacing both invertebrate and vertebrate species. Restoration of west coast dunes through the removal of Ammophila began in the 1990s. Methods usually consist of one or a combination of manual digging, burning/herbicides, or excavation with heavy equipment. There are benefits and disadvantages to each method. Manual removal has proven most effective at restoring foredune form and process but is expensive. Excavation and herbicides may result in the loss of foredune morphology. Managers must articulate goals carefully before selecting restoration methods.
... La oportunidad para la recreación y el turismo son un SE cultural reconocido, pero que viene acompañado por el impacto del pisoteo y tránsito de vehículos de todo terreno en dunas costeras como las de Israel ( Kutiel y Zhevelev, 2002), Australia (Thompson y Schlacher, 2008), a nivel mundial (Martínez y Psuty, 2004) y recientemente documentado en Irlanda ( Kindermann y Gormally, 2010). En México ha venido cobrando importancia, por ejemplo en Baja California y en Veracruz, específicamente en Chachalacas. ...
... Impacts of other coastal activities need to be considered, such as increased irrigation for dairying, which can raise local water tables, and potentially eutrophy wetlands (Foote et al. 2015), in contrast to plantation forestry and other anthropogenic activities which can lower water tables (Curreli et al. 2013;Robins et al. 2013). Similarly off-road vehicles appear to maintain open habitat for dune slack species, though increased traffic is detrimental (Kindermann and Gormally 2010;Šilc et al. 2017). And there are many other direct and indirect human pressures on dunes. ...
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Dune slack wetlands should be relatively unhindered by challenges in recovering the hydrology, geochemistry and biological structure affecting other created habitats, thus presenting a simple exemplar of restoration’s success. The Manawatū coast, New Zealand, has one of the most actively prograding parabolic dunefields in the world. In 1992 a study of Tawhirihoe Scientific Reserve, Tangimoana, first described three significant wetlands in dune slacks, the floor of these wetlands containing several rare perennial turf-forming species (<4 cm tall), which were in decline. A practical experiment creating wetlands in 1996 resulted in appropriate turf habitat, and was repeated on a larger scale in 2008. A survey of the vegetation and environment of the 3 natural and 3 created wetlands was conducted in 2009–2010 summer. Seven vegetation communities were identified, the three earliest successional communities containing rare turf species. The largest wetland contained the broadest range of communities, but other natural wetlands were successionally older. The most recently created wetland has only the earliest successional phase. All wetlands progressively infill with aoelian sand over the decades, rates depending on their locations and sizes, accelerating succession to exotic vegetation. Turf communities containing rare wetland plants appear to exist for only about two decades, highlighting their temporary nature. Deliberate wetland creation remains the most promising management strategy for their perpetuation in small reserves within dynamic dunelands, but even in these simple environments, restoration impediments are easy neither to predict nor to forestall.
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The shoreline is often at the interface of a combination of physical, ecological, and socio-economic forcing agents. Monitoring the shoreline changes across time is crucial to understand the causes of its evolution and put in place management measures. The analysis of aerial photographs from 1950 to 2016 at Mayotte Island (Indian Ocean) showed that the shoreline urbanisation is still low (6%) compared to the worldwide trend. However, a faster increase happened recently (from 3% in 1989 to 6% in 2016) owing to a strong demographic growth and socio-economic development. A multidisciplinary index was developed to assess the vulnerability of four study sites – Bandrélé, M’tsamboro, N’gouja, and Sakouli – (representative sites of beaches with fringing reefs throughout Mayotte with varying levels of urbanisation). The vulnerability of Bandrélé was lower than that of the other sites due to the presence of a mangrove at the back of the beach which plays a key role of buffer between the land and sea. M’tsamboro was the site with the highest anthropogenic pressure and highest vulnerability. Overall, as most of the shoreline is still natural at Mayotte, a sound management advice would be to put in place conservation measures to preserve natural coastal habitats, such as beaches, mangroves, seagrass beds, and coral reefs. The multidisciplinary vulnerability index developed in this study can be a useful tool to help coastal managers in the decision-making and prioritisation of actions to undertake on the shore.
Human occupancy of beaches is an important cause of environmental and landscape transformations, some of which are identifiable through vegetation analysis. Commonly, arboreal vegetation has been socially perceived in a positive way, as it contributes to the creation of environments appreciated as beautiful and natural. This type of vegetation has been recreated in urban coastal areas worldwide, including those located in arid environments where it is not always common or endemic to these areas. The typology of plant species, human impacts on beach environments, and the social perception of vegetation contrast were analyzed to understand the landscape influence and human impact on beach environments from arid regions. The study was carried out on 12 beaches with different degrees of human occupation (4 urban, 4 semi-urban and 4 natural) in Gran Canaria island (Spain). The results indicate that the number of exotic and ruderal (first to colonize human disturbed environments) species increases with human occupation of the beaches. A greater number of arboreal species were identified on urban beaches, while shrub and herbaceous species were more common on less occupied beaches (semi-urban and natural). However, when surveyed, the users of semi-urban and natural beaches, considered that arboreal vegetation compose a more attractive landscape than other with herbs or shrubs, even though tree species appear occasionally on these types of beaches. This inconsistency identifies a conflict of values between the development and conservation of beaches in arid environments. This study can be used to establish environmental sustainability strategies on beaches. Conservation and environmental information about ecosystem services related with indigenous plant species is and important issue for integrated management on beaches from arid regions, especially those that may be urbanized in the near future.
In this study, an arid dune vulnerability index (ADVI) is developed using a system of indicators to evaluate the geomorphological vulnerability of beach-dune systems of arid regions. The indicators are comprised of three analytical dimensions (susceptibility, exposure and resilience) and their corresponding sub-indices and variables and were assessed for eleven sites located in four aeolian sedimentary systems of the Canary archipelago (Spain). The selected sites have varying geomorphological characteristics, vegetation types, marine and wind conditions and human pressure degrees, and have seen different trends in their geomorphological evolution since 1960. The eleven sites were separated into three groups according to their different conservation status and different management needs, and the results of the ADVI dimensions and variables were compared and analyzed for these three groups. In general, the results obtained in the analyzed sites reveal that susceptibility and exposure dimensions are related to low-moderate values, while resilience was high. Only one site presented a state of critical vulnerability, due to the loss of its capacity to maintain its geomorphological function in recent decades. Given the lack of knowledge about geomorphological vulnerability processes in foredunes of arid regions, ADVI is the first approximation to geomorphological diagnostic in these environments and can be useful for managers.
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Ecosystem services (ES) are direct and indirect benefits of ecosystems that are not generally offered by markets and from which society obtains goods and services. ES are grouped according to four ecosystemic functions: regulation, provisioning, habitat and cultural. Our study aimed at identifying ES provided by beaches and coastal dunes in the Baja California Peninsula. ES were identified in a literature search in the international and local scientific bibliography databases. We used key words like: ES in Baja California, ES in beaches and ES in coastal dunes. We analyzed 350 selected papers. Explicit and implicit mentions to ES or to their elements were extracted from the reviewed documents; the assigned value represents the degree of importance of each ES: 0 (unimportant), 1 (low importance), 2 (medium importance) and 3 (high importance). The ES cultural function was the best documented, being mentioned in 40 publications. The habitat function was the most reported for the Pacific Ocean coast mainly refuge for flora and fauna. The functions of regulation of air quality and climate are equally analyzed in ten publications. The ES of erosion regulation, pollination, and water flow are only documented in the Gulf of California coastline. We concluded it is highly relevant to know the ES provided by beaches and coastal dunes in order to design and implement adequate management practices that conserve the ecosystem in order for it to continue providing ES to humans.
Ramsey Canyon Preserve, in southeastern Arizona, is a model of excellence in small protected areas management. The preserve's fundamental trademark of excellence is the demonstrated ability to promote land stewardship beyond the preserve boundaries and transform the often foreign or threatening concept of land stewardship into a socially meaningful way to protect rural community life. Ethnographic interview analysis revealed that respect for landscape communities both within and beyond the preserve boundary underlies the successful management program at Ramsey Canyon. Management is driven by a clearly focused mandate to protect rare species. It encompasses four stewardship functions: (1) knowledge, (2) planning, (3) ecological health maintenance, and (4) ambassador functions. An exemplary visitor management program is central to protecting this popular but small protected area. Ecological health and public support are vital to protecting rare species and thus are the ultimate desired outcomes of management efforts at Ramsey Canyon Preserve.
Scottish machair is now regarded as having international importance both for nature conservation and for its physiographic, botantical and ornithological interest. Dune and machair systems are by their very nature dynamic and therefore erosion and deposition may occur naturally. The high average and extreme wind speeds which have contributed to the formation of the habitat also threaten it via its inherent instability. Case histories are presented which show that properly planned and managed reinstatement schemes can succeed but some well-intentioned, yet ill-advised, schemes can magnify problems. -from Authors
(1) The influence of trampling was studied on the outer dune heath of Skallingen, southwest Jutland. The total number of passages and the period of time over which trampling occurred were varied independently, on areas that had either received fertilizer applications or were unfertilized. The depth and width of paths were measured and the relative cover of the vegetation and species frequency determined. (2) There was a linear relationship between the depth of the paths and the number of passages. 2560 passes lowered the soil surface by 28 mm. The width of paths increased with increasing numbers of passages. The paths were slightly deeper when trampled on a single day as opposed to the effect of trampling over a period of 4 months. (3) Relative cover was reduced with increasing numbers of passages; after 200 passages cover was only 50%. This low carrying capacity is suggested to be the consequence of reduced vigour of the dominant species Empetrum nigrum, although it is not reflected in frequency measurements of this species. The frequency of four species E. nigrum. Festuca rubra, Ammophila arenaria and Veronica officinalis was largely unaffected by 150 passages but only two species. Empetrum nigrum and Hypnum cupressiforme survived 2560 passages. (4) Addition of fertilizer only slightly increased plant cover on the paths but tended to produce a vegetation dominated by grasses. (5) It is emphasized that all the consequences of a management operation need to be considered before it is carried out.
(1) The Algodones Dunes, the largest dune complex in California, contains many unique species. This dune system also receives the greatest use by off-road vehicles (ORVs). (2) Studies of paired plots (unused v. ORV-used) and animal tracks along sand sweeps clearly demonstrate that ORV activities in the Algodones Dunes significantly reduced the biota. (3) There were marked declines in herbaceous and perennial plants, arthropods, lizards and mammals in ORV-used areas compared with nearby controls. All sand-adapted species, including several plants considered rare or threatened species, were greatly reduced in habitats where ORVs operate. (4) The biota was negatively affected even by relatively low levels of ORV activities. Areas heavily used by ORVs had virtually no native plants nor wildlife.
(1) The effects of experimental trampling due to hikers, horses, and motorcycles were studied in a Festuca idahoensis-Poa pratensis meadow and in a Pinus albicaulis-Vaccinium scoparium forest. (2) Horses and motorcycles were more damaging than hikers. Motorcycles were most damaging when going uphill while hikers and horses were most damaging when going downhill. (3) Damage was less rapid in grassy vegetation than in shrubby vegetation. (4) Damage was generally greater on slopes than on level ground.
(1) A survey of the bulk density, penetration resistance and water content of soils on tracks and paths was carried out at Aberffraw, Anglesey, North Wales. The associated vegetation is described in Paper II (Liddle & Greig-Smith 1975). (2) Bulk density and soil penetration resistance was linearly related to the log of the number of passages of a car, up to 256 passages, and of walkers, up to 1024 passages. We conclude that short-term trampling compacts the surface layers of soil and that longer term trampling may compact the soil to a greater depth. (3) A given number of passages by a car increased the soil bulk density by 30% and the penetration resistance by 100% more than did the same number of passages by walkers. (4) The water content of compressed soil in dry areas was greater than the adjacent undisturbed soil; this could aid the survival of plants on tracks and paths. Compaction is likely to induce anaerobic conditions during the winter in wet areas, and increase the build up of organic material.
The available literature on the environmental effects of public recreation is critically reviewed, and this reveals a need for detailed quantitative studies to relate the intensity of recreation pressure to its effects on the vegetation and soils of semi-natural areas. The nature of the effects of trampling and the considerations necessary to determine the carrying capacity of an area are discussed. Two basic approaches to the problem of relating trampling intensity to environmental change are proposed. (1) Direct recording at selected sites of such effects of trampling as changes in species composition and soil parameters, over a period of changing, usually increasing, pressure. Such environmental effects may be manifest in either the short or long term depending on the rate of change of the trampling intensity. (2) Comparative studies using a range of sites subject to different intensities of trampling where it may be assumed that the environment is in equilibrium with the intensity of recreational use. Data collected from such sites are suitable for analysis by multivariate methods such as the analysis of variance, principal component analysis, partial correlation and partial regression. It is argued that the first approach is more appropriate where the intensity of trampling is obviously increasing, and the second approach where the situation is relatively static, but they are complementary and ideally an investigation should involve both. The two approaches may be used to indicate a number of thresholds of trampling pressure at which vegetation species composition shows abrupt changes, and these intensities of use may be considered a series of carrying capacities of an area. These two basic approaches have been illustrated using field examples. The study of the Ranmore nature trail exemplifies the dynamic system changing in the short term due to a sudden, transient increase in the level of trampling intensity. Changes in path widths and profiles, soil compaction, litter and ground vegetation were measured as they occurred over the week, in relation to the precise numbers of people using the trail. The studies of trampled areas on Scilly and in Norfolk show the application of the second approach, where areas are considered to be in balance with the intensity of pressure upon them. On Scilly, the distribution of people on the islands was examined in relation to vegetation types and features of interest by means of map-questionnaires on which visitors traced their movements. Objective photographic methods were used to record the distribution of people on the chosen sites, which included a range of intensities of trampling. The vegetational cover of the sites was examined, and such soil parameters as pH, conductivity, moisture and compaction were measured. These data were then related using multivariate methods. Similarly, in the Norfolk study, measurements of pressure in three defined zones were related by regression to replicated measurements of the standing crop of groups of species with different growth forms and to soil compaction. A simple model of the effects of trampling was formulated and, within limitations, used to predict intensities of trampling at which particular species would disappear from the sward. The effectiveness of these methods of study for relating trampling pressure to environmental effects in different situations, and for predicting carrying capacity levels, is discussed. The need for quantitative investigations of this kind cannot be overemphasized as a preliminary to the formulation of management policies for any semi-natural area that is to be used for recreation.
This paper describes the vegetation associated with the soils discussed in Paper I (Liddle & Greig-Smith 1975). Phytosociological analyses confirm that trampling had an effect on the composition of the vegetation; classification suggested a number of species that indicate trampling. A track and path occurrence index was constructed: the life form with the highest index was the hemicryptophytes and the species with the highest indices include Bellis perennis, Poa pratensis, Juncus articulatus and Potentilla anserina. Transect records showed a reduction in biomass and species numbers in the most worn areas, but diversity was not always affected. The relative proportion of monocotyledonous species dropped and that of dicotyledonous species rose under moderate trampling levels. However, with increased trampling this relationship was reversed. A greenhouse experiment indicated that while damage to shoots by vehicles was detrimental to plants, soil compaction alone could be beneficial in the sand dune habitat. It is possible that control of the level of wear could be used to create aesthetically pleasing communities and diversify the vegetation in an otherwise undisturbed habitat.