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Recreational use of a rocky intertidal reef in Victoria: Implications for ecological research and management

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Rocky intertidal reefs are an increasingly popular setting for recreational activities in Australia. As a result, managers need to better understand and quantify the visitation levels and recreational use of these areas to ensure the protection of intertidal marine communities. We surveyed the recreational use of a rocky intertidal reef at Sorrento, a popular summer holiday destination in Victoria. The section of the reef with greatest visitor access received the most visitors; regardless of whether it was school holidays or weekends during the school term. The most popular and potentially threatening activities included walking over beds of the fucoid alga, Hormosira banksii, followed by collecting biota and fossicking. Most activities were passive in nature and we theorise that many visitors are unaware of their contribution to local environmental impacts. We suggest that public education is an ideal management strategy to increase visitors' environmental awareness and teach visitors about low-impact behaviours. By performing recreational use surveys in conjunction with site specific ecological surveys of the impacts of recreational use, management agencies will be able to devise more effective strategies which will better protect rocky intertidal reef habitats in the future.
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169
September 2008
Recreational use of a rocky intertidal reef in Victoria:
implications for ecological research and management
P.F.E. Addison, R.S. Koss and T.D. O’Hara*
Rocky intertidal reefs are an increasingly popular
setting for recreational activities in Australia. As
a result, managers need to better understand and
quantify the visitation levels and recreational use of these
areas to ensure the protection of intertidal marine
communities. We surveyed the recreational use of a rocky
intertidal reef at Sorrento, a popular summer holiday
destination in Victoria. The section of the reef with
greatest visitor access received the most visitors;
regardless of whether it was school holidays or weekends
during the school term. The most popular and potentially
threatening activities included walking over beds of the
fucoid alga, Hormosira banksii, followed by collecting
biota and fossicking. Most activities were passive in
nature and we theorise that many visitors are unaware of
their contribution to local environmental impacts. We
suggest that public education is an ideal management
strategy to increase visitors’ environmental awareness
and teach visitors about low-impact behaviours. By
performing recreational use surveys in conjunction with
site specific ecological surveys of the impacts of
recreational use, management agencies will be able to
devise more effective strategies which will better protect
rocky intertidal reef habitats in the future.
Keywords: environmental awareness, Hormosira banksii,
management, recreational use, trampling
1995; Parks Victoria 2003; Wescott 2006). Of these
areas, rocky intertidal reefs, which are accessible at low
tide, have been highlighted as very popular recreational
areas that are not being adequately protected from
recreational use (Zann 1995; Wescott 2006). The
importance of protecting rocky intertidal reef habitats has
been highlighted by the detection of significant
ecological impacts (Ghazanshahi et al. 1983; Fairweather
1991; Underwood 1993; Zann 1995; Keough & Quinn
2000).
The two largest threats to rocky intertidal reefs from
recreational use around the world are the trampling on
biota and collection of marine life (Castilla & Durán
1985; Fairweather 1991; Povey & Keough 1991; Keough
et al. 1993; Underwood 1993; Addessi 1994; Keough &
Quinn 1998). Trampling can cause variable changes to
rocky intertidal communities, but generally fucoid algae
(e.g. Hormosira banksii in Australia and New Zealand)
are most susceptible (Povey & Keough 1991; King 1992;
Keough & Quinn 1998; Schiel & Taylor 1999).
Trampling causes a reduction in cover and frond length
of fucoid algae, and recovery from intensive trampling
can take many years (King 1992; Keough & Quinn 1998;
Schiel & Taylor 1999; Benedetti-Cecchi et al. 2001;
Cervin et al. 2005). The alteration of the canopy structure
of fucoid algae can lead to indirect effects on the
abundance and diversity of other plants and animals
within the marine community (Povey & Keough 1991;
Keough & Quinn 1998; Schiel & Taylor 1999; Benedetti-
Cecchi et al. 2001; Cervin et al. 2005). The collection of
marine invertebrates and algae for food or bait, though
only by a small number of visitors to rocky intertidal
reefs, can directly result in a substantial reduction in the
abundance and average size of harvested species
populations (Moreno et al. 1984; Castilla & Durán 1985;
Hockey & Bosman 1986; Castilla & Bustamante 1989;
Fairweather 1991; Keough et al. 1993; Keough & Quinn
2000). This also leads to indirect effects on other species
and therefore results in changes in the overall community
structure (Castilla & Durán 1985; Fairweather 1991;
Underwood 1993; Lasiak & Field 1995).
Many visitors to rocky intertidal reefs are likely to be
well intentioned when they engage in recreational
activities; however, they may fail to realise the extent of
*Prue Addison, Rebecca Koss and Tim O’Hara are with the
Museum Victoria, GPO Box 666, Melbourne, 3001. Email:
tohara@museum.vic.gov.au
Coastal areas play an important social and cultural role
for many Australians, with the natural values of such
areas attracting many people to live or spend their
holidays near the coast (Zann 1995). The importance of
coastal areas is particularly apparent given that over 85
per cent of Australia’s population lives within 50
kilometres of the coastline (ABS 2004a), and there is an
increasing tendency for people to make their own ‘sea
change’ by moving to the coast from metropolitan areas
(ABS 2004b; Gurran et al. 2006). Along with the
popularity of coastal areas, there has been an increased
recognition of the value of these natural environments to
provide opportunities for recreational activities (Zann
170 AUSTRALASIAN JOURNAL OF ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT—Volume 15
their contribution to the impacts on the local environment
(Kavallinis & Pizam 1994; Alessa et al. 2003; Priskin
2003). Although the environment has become a
mainstream issue, and more of the world’s population
have become environmentally aware (Takala 1991;
Howell & Laska 1992; Lothian 1994; Fransson & Gärling
1999), for many people this awareness has failed to
translate into environmentally responsible behaviours
(Heberlein & Black 1976; Van Liere & Dunlap 1981;
Scott & Willits 1994; Fransson & Gärling 1999; Lothian
2002; Alessa et al. 2003; Priskin 2003). This is because
there has not been a corresponding increase in knowledge
about what appropriate behaviours will minimise
environmental impacts (Scott & Willits 1994; Fransson &
Gärling 1999; Lothian 2002).
A substantial amount of literature exists on the impacts of
recreational activities on marine communities from rocky
intertidal reefs along the south-eastern Australian
coastline (Fairweather 1991; Povey & Keough 1991;
King 1992; Keough et al. 1993; Keough & Quinn 1998;
Arundel & Fairweather 2002). In comparison, relatively
few studies have quantified the visitation levels and
recreational activities on rocky intertidal reefs (but see
Underwood & Kennelly 1990; Kingsford et al. 1991;
Porter & Wescott 2004). In this study, we aimed to
quantify the recreational use of an intertidal reef at
Sorrento, which is one of central Victoria’s most popular
summer holiday destinations, to aid in the improvement
of natural resource management.
We conducted an observational survey of visitors to the
Sorrento rocky intertidal reef to investigate: whether
there were more visitors to sections of the intertidal reef
with high access compared to low access; how the pattern
of visits changed in school holidays compared to school
term time; whether the number of cars in the car park
reflected the number of visitors to the most accessible
section of the reef; what proportion of visitors were
involved in different types of recreational activities, and
where these occurred on the reef.
Methods
Study site
Sorrento is a popular holiday destination for residents
from the Melbourne metropolitan area in Victoria,
Australia. This is particularly the case during the summer
months of December and January when Victoria’s major
school holidays occur. Sorrento is now considered the
most accessible and popular ocean beach site in the
Mornington Peninsula National Park, with estimates of
over half a million people visiting it each year (Parks
Victoria 1998; Zanon 2002). Europeans have been
visiting the ocean beach and rocky intertidal reef at
Sorrento in large numbers for over a century, with
records of high visitation dating back to the 1870s (J.
South, 2006, pers. comm., November). From the
beginning of its popularity as a seaside resort, the
Sorrento ocean beach and rocky intertidal reef have been
managed to varying degrees in response to environmental
and recreational issues. In 1933, the main rockpool on the
rocky intertidal reef was substantially deepened and
widened to allow for increased visitor use (in particular
to dive into the rockpool) while minimising the risk of
injury to visitors (J. South, 2006, pers. comm.,
November). In 1995, the rocky intertidal reef at Sorrento
became part of the Mornington Peninsula National Park:
a terrestrial park that extends to the low tide level, and is
managed by Parks Victoria primarily for ecosystem
conservation and recreation (Parks Victoria 1998).
Current management of Sorrento rocky intertidal reef
includes the provision of multiple interpretive signs,
including a small sign depicting prohibition of shellfish
collection at the main access point to the beach. Parks
Victoria rangers also intermittently patrol the area for
maintenance, and to monitor prohibited activities such as
shellfish collection.
Observational survey of recreational use at Sorrento
rocky intertidal reef
Observational surveys of visitors to Sorrento rocky
intertidal reef and their activities were conducted
throughout January and February 2006. Surveys were
conducted at two 100 metre-wide sections of intertidal
reef, which were referred to as the ‘high access’ and ‘low
access’ sites (Figure 1). The high access site is located
next to the main beach of Sorrento, and is easily accessed
via stairs connected to the car park. The low access site is
approximately 300 metres north-west of the high access
site, and has substantially lower visitation due to its
distance from the main access points to Sorrento ocean
beach.
Sixteen surveys of visitors to both the high and low
access sites were conducted over eight weeks. The first
four weeks were school holiday time and the remaining
four weeks were school term time. During each week, the
high and low access sites were surveyed on one weekday
and one weekend day. Surveys were conducted during
daylight hours over a two hour period, one hour either
side of the predicted low tide time. All surveys were
conducted on days where the predicted low tide was
between 0 – 0.4 metres above mean sea level, which
ensured that the intertidal reef was entirely exposed to
171
September 2008
recreational use. During each two hour survey,
observations of human activities were made over four
periods (each five minutes in duration, separated by thirty
minutes, to ensure independence). During each
observation period, each visitor and their first observed
activity was recorded. Based on their physical
appearance, children (under 16 years of age) and adults
(those older than 16 years of age) were counted
separately, as it was anticipated that these groups would
be involved in different types of activities.
Visitor activity was classified into walking or rockpool
activities based on a simple descriptor of their observed
behaviour. Thus ‘randomly walking’ refers to visitors
who were wandering over the intertidal
rock platform; ‘fossicking while walking’
refers to visitors who were actively
investigating the marine life of the
intertidal platform without removing biota
in the process; and ‘walking along a path’
refers to visitors who were walking on
narrow sections of reef that were worn by
high recreational use. These paths were
usually distinguished by having little or
no plant and animal life and, in some
cases, the rock platform had been eroded
from high levels of foot traffic. Visitors
were also occasionally observed walking
with their dogs; although this activity is
prohibited after 9 am during the summer
(Parks Victoria 1998). Rockpool activities
included standing on the edge of or within
a rockpool (often adults supervising
children), or exploring the edge of a
rockpool. Other rockpool activities
included jumping into rockpools,
swimming, snorkelling or body boarding.
The only two exploitative activities
observed at Sorrento were collecting
invertebrates and algae, and fishing in a
rockpool or off the reef edge.
Each visitor and their first observed
activity was recorded within the different
shore levels at the high access site. Shore
levels were recorded as either high, mid
or low, and were determined by the
biological and physical characteristics of
the intertidal reef. High shore was the
section of reef higher in elevation than the
rest of the reef platform and was
characterised by the dominance of the
snails, Austrolittorina unifaciata and
Afrolittorina praetermissa. The mid shore made up a
large area of the flat reef platform and was characterised
by the dominance of the fucoid alga, Hormosira banksii.
The low shore was the seaward edge of the flat reef
platform and was characterised by the dominance of
many species of algae (e.g. Laurencia spp., Ulva spp.,
Cystophora spp. and many filamentous red and green
alga species).
In addition, the daily number of cars entering the
Sorrento Ocean Beach car park was obtained from Parks
Victoria (from entry fee records) for all of January and
the weekends in February 2006. We used these data to
investigate the relationship between daily car numbers
Figure 1 Location of Sorrento rocky intertidal reef
Note: Boundaries of the high access (centre point: 144°43’31”, 38°20’48”) and
low access (centre point: 144°43’17”, 38°20’41”) sites are shown, along with the
walking access points (dashed lines), main access road (solid line), car park (CP),
kiosk (K), Sorrento Surf Life Saving Club (SSLSC) and a public toilet block (T).
172 AUSTRALASIAN JOURNAL OF ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT—Volume 15
and the average number of visitors to the high access site
over a five minute period.
Statistical analyses
Analysis of variance was used to test the difference in
numbers of visitors engaged in different recreational
activities between high and low access sites, school
holidays and school term, and weekdays and weekends.
The analysis was a factorial design with Site (high access
or low access; fixed), Holiday (school holiday or school
term; fixed) which was crossed with Site, and Week
(weekday or weekend day; fixed) which was crossed with
Holiday. For this analysis, the walking or rockpool
activity grouping was applied. Analyses were run
separately on the count of adults and children engaged in
walking and rockpool activities. The four sets of
observations (over five minute periods) recorded at the
high and low access sites during each survey were used
as replicates in this analysis, and these data were
log10(x+1) transformed to meet the assumptions of
normality for the statistical analyses. Tukey post-hoc
pairwise comparisons were carried out to assess which
groups were significantly different when a significant
interaction was detected through analysis of variance.
Linear regression was used to compare the daily number
of cars in Sorrento car park with the average number of
visitors observed at the high access site within a five
minute observation period on each survey day. This
analysis only included twelve days of survey data
obtained during the school holidays (weekdays and
weekends) and the school term (weekends only).
The proportion of visitors engaged in different walking
and rockpool activities at the high and low access sites
were compared using analysis of variance. Activity type
was the single factor (fixed) used in these one way
analysis of variance tests, and the response variable was
proportion of visitors (adults and children combined) that
were engaged in each activity during each replicate
observation. This test requires at least one visitor to be
present during a survey day in order to estimate the
proportion of visitors engaged in each activity; therefore,
if there were no visitors recorded during a survey day,
these data were not included in the analysis.
The number of visitors associated with either walking or
rockpool related activities was compared between the
high, mid and low shore levels of the high access site.
This was done using the data from twelve of the survey
days. Data from the school term weekdays were
excluded, due to very few visitors being observed at the
high access site during this time. One way analysis of
variance was used to test the difference in the total
number of visitors engaged in either walking or rockpool
activities between shore levels (high, mid and low; fixed)
during each replicate observation time. A significant
effect was detected for both tests, and Tukey post-hoc
pairwise comparisons were carried out to assess which
shore levels were significantly different to each other. All
analyses were performed using the statistical package
Systat 10.
Results
Visitation to Sorrento rocky intertidal reef
The maximum number of visitors observed within a
single five minute observation period was 117 at the high
access site on a weekend during the school holidays. In
comparison, there was a maximum of 36 visitors at the
low access site on one survey replicate on a weekday
during the school holidays. However, at both sites there
were five minute periods when no people were observed.
Of the activities observed at the high and low access
sites, most were passive with only a few visitors engaged
in exploitative activities. The small number of people
engaged in exploitative activities included 5 per cent of
visitors fishing and no-one collecting at the low access
site, and 0.2 per cent of visitors fishing and 0.2 per cent
of visitors collecting at the high access site.
At both high and low access sites there were generally
more adults engaged in walking activities, while more
children were engaged in rockpool activities (Figure 2).
The average number of children and adults engaged in
walking and rockpool activities followed very similar
patterns over the school holidays and school term and
over weekdays and weekends (Table 1, Figure 2).
Analysis of variance of adults and children engaged in
walking and rockpool activities revealed some significant
interactions between visitation levels at the high and low
access sites, between school holidays and the school
term, and between weekdays and weekend days. Pairwise
comparisons revealed that significantly more adults
engaged in rockpool activities and more children engaged
in both walking and rockpool activities at the high access
site compared to the low access site, both during the
school holidays and in the school term (significant Site x
Holiday interaction) (Table 1, Figure 2). There were also
significantly more adults and children engaged in both
walking and rockpool activities at the high access site
compared to the low access site both during weekdays
and the weekend (significant Site x Week interaction)
(Table 1, Figure 2). Finally, there was no significant
difference between the number of adults and children
173
September 2008
engaged in both walking and rockpool activities on
weekdays compared to weekend days during the school
holidays; however, there were significantly fewer visitors
observed on weekdays compared to weekend days during
the school term (significant Holiday x Week interaction)
(Table 1, Figure 2). Further, pairwise
comparisons for significant Holiday x
Week interactions for all tests
revealed that the number of weekend
visits during school holidays and
school term for adults and children
engaged in walking and rockpool
activities was not significantly
different at the low access site.
Finally, there was no significant
difference between the number of
adults and children engaged in both
walking and rockpool activities on
weekdays compared to weekends
during the school holidays; however,
significantly lower numbers of visitors
were observed on weekdays compared
to weekends during the school term
(significant Holiday x Week
interaction) (Table 1, Figure 2).
Throughout January and on weekends in February 2006,
9482 cars entered the Sorrento car park. The daily
number of cars entering Sorrento car park and the
average number of visitors at the high access site were
significantly correlated (R2=0.546,
p=0.006) (Figure 3). This was a
positive relationship, with the average
number of visitors observed at the
high access site increasing with an
increased number of cars recorded for
the day.
Recreational activities at Sorrento
rocky intertidal reef
Of the walking activities at the high
access site, the highest proportion of
visitors was randomly walking over
the intertidal platform (Table 2 and
Figure 4). This was closely followed
by visitors walking along a path and
fossicking while walking. Few
visitors were observed walking with
dogs at the high access site; although
some were observed there after 9am
when it is prohibited (Parks Victoria
1998). A number of different
activities were observed in association
with the rockpools at the high access
site, with the highest proportion of
visitors standing on the edge of
rockpools (often adults supervising
children) (Figure 4). This was closely
Table 1 Differences in numbers of adults and children engaged in walking and
rockpool activities
Figure 2 Adults and children engaged in walking and rockpool activities
Note: The average number (±s.e) of adults and children are shown at the high and low
access sites, during the summer school holidays and the first school term and on
weekdays and weekend days.
174 AUSTRALASIAN JOURNAL OF ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT—Volume 15
followed by a high proportion of visitors observed
swimming in rockpools and jumping into the main
rockpool at the high access site from the rocky outcrop
platform (often children) (Figure 4).
At the low access site, visitors engaged in walking
activities were mostly randomly walking over the
intertidal platform (Figure 4). A substantially lower
proportion of visitors was observed walking along a
‘path’ and fossicking while walking. There were a
number of rockpool activities observed at the low access
site; however, there was no significant difference between
these activities (Table 2 and Figure 4). The three rockpool
activities which visitors were most often engaged in at the
low access site were fishing (in rockpools near the
platform edge or in the sea just off the platform),
swimming, and standing in rockpools (Figure 4).
For walking and rockpool activities at the high access
site, there were significant differences between shore
levels for the number of visitors engaged in walking
activities (F2,141= 72.47, p<0.001) and
rockpool activities (F2,141 = 61.323,
p<0.001) (Figure 5). Pairwise
comparisons revealed that there were
significantly higher numbers of visitors
engaged in walking activities and rock
pool activities in the mid shore
compared to both the high and low shore
levels (Figure 5). In addition, 85 per
cent of the visitors engaged in rockpool
activities in the mid shore at the high
access site were using the main
rockpool, which is the deepest and
largest rockpool. Some visitors were
involved in rockpool activities in the
high shore level (Figure 5). These
people were using a high shore section
of rock to jump into the main rockpool,
which is located in the mid shore, next
to the high section of rock.
Discussion
Visitation
This study revealed that more people
visited the high access site compared to
the low access site at Sorrento rocky
intertidal reef. This supports Adessi’s
(1994) finding that there are generally
greater numbers of people on intertidal
Figure 3 The average number of visitors to the high access
site versus the daily number of cars entering Sorrento car
park
Table 2 Differences in the proportion of visitors
engaged in different types of walking and rockpool
activities at the high and low access sites
Figure 4 The proportion of visitors engaged in different walking and rockpool
activities at the high and low access sites
Note: Average values are shown, with standard errors. Definition of abbreviations:
Rand - randomly walking; Foss - fossicking while walking; Path - walking along a
path; Dog - walking with a dog; SE - standing on the edge of a rockpool; SP -
standing within a rockpool; Exp - exploring the edge of a rockpool; Jump - jumping
into a rockpool; Swim - swimming in a rockpool; Snork - snorkelling in a rockpool;
BB - body boarding in a rockpool; Coll - collecting in and around a rockpool; Fish -
fishing in a rockpool or off reef edge.
175
September 2008
reefs closer to public access points. Anecdotal evidence
suggests that visitors do not feel inclined to walk the
extra distance to the low access site at Sorrento because
they believe it is no different to the high access site. This
spatial pattern of visitation is probably encouraged by
Parks Victoria’s signs which invite visits to the high
access site access site, but highlight the dangers of
accessing the intertidal reef beyond the low access site.
The number of people visiting the high and low access
sites varied significantly over the survey period. During
the school holidays, there were similar visitation levels
on weekdays compared to weekends; however, there was
significantly lower visitation on weekdays compared to
weekends during the school term. In addition, visitation
levels on weekends were significantly lower at the high
access site during the school term compared to during the
school holiday. This visitation pattern reflects the large
increase in the summer population in towns surrounding
Sorrento. Similar visitation patterns have been observed
at intertidal reefs at Point Lonsdale and Bunurong Marine
Protected Areas in Victoria that experience similar
population increases over summer (King 1992; Porter &
Wescott 2004).
There was a significant positive relationship between the
number of cars in the car park and the number of visitors
to the high access site each day. Although this
relationship was significant, the daily number of cars
entering Sorrento car park explained only 55 per cent of
the variation in the average number of visitors at the high
access site. Sorrento ocean beach is mainly accessed by
people who drive into the car park, with few people
accessing the area by foot. However, many people only
visit the sandy beach and not the rocky intertidal reef,
and as a result, the number of cars is not an accurate
measure of visits to the intertidal reef.
Ecological implications of recreational activities
There were more adults than children engaged in walking
activities at both the high and low access sites. All
walking activities were considered passive, with most
visitors either randomly walking over the platform or
walking along paths in the mid shore of the high access
site where there are extensive beds of Hormosira banksii.
The greatest threat of trampling on rocky intertidal reefs
is to H. banksii and associated biota (Povey & Keough
1991; King 1992; Keough & Quinn 1998; Schiel &
Taylor 1999), and this has long been an issue of primary
concern for Parks Victoria (Carey et al. 2007). On
intertidal reefs near Sorrento, Povey and Keough (1991)
have demonstrated that a single footstep can cause a
reduction in 20 per cent of the biomass of an individual
H. banksii plant, and increasing trampling levels to 75
footsteps caused up to 60 per cent reduction in biomass.
The trampling levels used in experiments by Povey and
Keough (1991) are similar to those seen in our survey,
once extrapolated over low tide periods. There was a
maximum of 57 people walking randomly and 30 people
walking along paths where H. banksii is present within a
five minute survey period at the high access site. With
such detrimental levels of trampling, particularly along
the narrow areas where paths exist, the recovery of H.
banksii could be greater than 400 days (Povey & Keough
1991). This could lead to a ‘press’ disturbance, such as
that demonstrated by Keough and Quinn (1998), where
there is insufficient time to allow the complete recovery
of H. banksii beds between the summers of each year.
Although we have highlighted the potential impacts of
trampling at Sorrento intertidal reef, many studies have
demonstrated considerable spatial variation in the impact
of trampling on H. banksii (Povey & Keough 1991; King
1992; Keough & Quinn 1998).
Another activity associated with walking was fossicking.
Although fossicking does not involve the removal of
biota, it can have impacts on marine communities
particularly when boulders are overturned and not
replaced in their original position (McGuinness 1987).
However, when boulders are carefully replaced in their
original position, plant and animal communities living
under boulders can rapidly recover within one month
(Chapman & Underwood 1996). We did not assess
whether visitors were carefully replacing boulders while
fossicking; therefore, we suggest that this activity is
monitored in the future, as it does have the potential to
impact marine communities at Sorrento intertidal reef.
Figure 5 The number of visitors engaged in walking or
rockpool associated activities at the different shore levels at
Sorrento’s high access site
Note: The average number of visitors and standard errors are
shown for high, mid and low shore levels. Letters above each
bar represent pairwise comparisons - where letters are
different, shore levels are significantly different.
176 AUSTRALASIAN JOURNAL OF ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT—Volume 15
Most rock pool activities were passive and mainly
involved adults standing at the edge of rockpools, children
swimming and snorkelling at the high and low access
sites, or children walking on the rocky outcrop which is
used as a platform for diving into the main rockpool at the
high access site. Most rockpool activities at the high
access site occurred in the main rockpool located in the
mid shore. The only exploitative activities associated with
rockpools were fishing and collecting. Fishing is a
permitted activity at Sorrento, while collecting intertidal
shellfish is prohibited (Parks Victoria 1998). Few visitors
were observed fishing at Sorrento, with visitors mainly
engaging in fishing activities at the low access site. This
indicates that fishers at Sorrento prefer to fish from less
crowded areas of intertidal reef, at least during the busy
summer months. The main impact of fishing on rocky
intertidal communities is from collection of biota for bait
and trampling (Fairweather 1991; Underwood 1993;
Smith & Murray 2005). No fishers were observed
collecting biota for bait, suggesting that the main impact
that fishers cause at Sorrento intertidal reef is trampling.
Due to the small portion of visitors engaged in this
activity, we suggest that fishing does not pose a large
threat to Sorrento intertidal reef. Sorrento is not
considered a popular fishing location (Cooper 2001);
therefore, neighbouring rocky intertidal reefs, which are
more popular fishing locations, may be more at threat
from this activity.
A small proportion of visitors was observed collecting
invertebrates at the high access site, most of whom were
children collecting invertebrates in buckets. This is unlike
other intertidal reefs near urban centres in Victoria and
New South Wales where larger proportions of people have
been observed collecting, primarily for bait and food
(Underwood & Kennelly 1990; Fairweather 1991;
Kingsford et al. 1991; Keough et al. 1993; Underwood
1993; Chapman & Underwood 1997; Keough & Quinn
1998). Despite the small number of people observed
collecting in our survey, a major shellfish collecting event
was observed within a small area of reef to the north-west
of high access site at Sorrento and involved approximately
ten people during March 2006. Collecting shellfish causes
extra patchiness in the distribution of the target species
and results in substantial direct and indirect effects on the
marine community (Underwood & Kennelly 1990).
Collecting events therefore have the potential to impact
Sorrento’s intertidal marine community.
Management implications of recreational use
The key findings from this study which should be
integrated into management of Sorrento intertidal reef
include: daily number of cars entering the car park is only
a crude estimate of the number of visitors to the high
access site; the highest visitor numbers throughout the
school holidays and on the weekends in the school term
are for the intertidal reef close to the main access points of
Sorrento ocean beach; visits on the weekends to the
intertidal reef close to the main access points of Sorrento
ocean beach are substantially lower during the school term
compared to the school holidays; the majority of
recreational activities (walking randomly, walking along
paths, and activities associated with the main rock pool)
are considered passive, with the most popular activities
occurring in the mid shore at the high access site; and, the
activity which appears to pose the greatest threat to
Sorrento intertidal reef is trampling over beds of the brown
alga, Hormosira banksii, followed by collecting and
fossicking.
This study supports the findings of other recreational use
studies that have found that most visitors to Victoria’s
rocky intertidal reefs engage in passive activities, and as a
result trampling is the greatest threat to the marine
communities (King 1992; Keough et al. 1993; Arundel &
Fairweather 2002; Porter & Wescott 2004). A management
strategy commonly suggested to reduce the threat of
trampling is to restrict public access to some reefs; either
by changing public access points, fencing off areas,
building boardwalks, or restricting visitors to pre-trampled
paths (King 1992; Fletcher & Frid 1996; Keough & Quinn
1998; Carey et al. 2007). By directing the public’s
attention to explore the high access site at Sorrento, Parks
Victoria does restrict access to the local intertidal coastline
by treating the high access site as a sacrificial section of
reef.
Given the passive nature of the majority of recreational
activities occurring on Victorian intertidal reefs, we
believe that many visitors are unaware of their
contribution to environmental impacts. Public education is
a common management strategy to increase visitor’s
awareness about environmental impacts and provide
details of alternative low-impact behaviours which they
can adopt (Carlson & Godfrey 1989; Alcock & Zann 1996;
Orams 1996; Ferns 2003; Priskin 2003; Scales 2006).
Public education can involve interest groups in restoration,
remediation, and marine data collection projects, as well as
the wider community who are exposed to educational
messages through television, newspapers and on-site
interpretive signs (Alcock 1991; Alcock & Zann 1996;
Howe 2001; Blayney & Wescott 2004; Porter & Wescott
2004; Leigh 2005; Lundquist & Granek 2005; Scales
2006). Despite the popularity of these educational
strategies, there has been considerable criticism about their
177
September 2008
overall effectiveness in reaching the majority of resource
visitors and successfully reducing the occurrence of
biologically threatening recreational activities (Alcock &
Zann 1996; McKenzie-Mohr & Smith 1999; Alessa et al.
2003; Blayney & Wescott 2004; Porter & Wescott 2004;
Wescott 2006). Robinson (2006) has suggested that
rather than giving the public advice from experts (e.g.
managers, planners and scientists), allowing members of
the general public to discuss problems, share lessons and
learn from each other may be more successful in
promoting behaviour change. This can be facilitated by
managers through on site workshops and field trips
during peak visitation times. By collaborating with
recreational visitors, managers can also gain valuable
knowledge of the factors contributing to the passive
environmental degradation behaviours seen on rocky
intertidal shores and how to enhance voluntary behaviour
change (McKenzie-Mohr & Smith 1999; Pickens 2002).
Recreational use surveys can play a beneficial role in the
management of intertidal reefs, as interest groups can
conduct these surveys without the need for specialist
techniques or knowledge (Chapman 1997). By involving
interest groups in recreational use surveys, individuals
gain many educational benefits and strengthen their
relationship with management agencies. Concurrently,
management agencies would develop a greater
understanding of how recreational use changes seasonally
and annually, which could feedback into the development
of improved management strategies.
By revealing the peak visitation periods, recreational use
surveys can be used as a trigger for management agencies
to ensure that impacts are minimised (Boden & Ovington
1973; King 1992). Along with highlighting peak
visitation periods, recreational use surveys also highlight
the most popular and potentially threatening activities
which can be used to feed directly into management
strategies. Before management strategies are developed
to modify resource use, we stress the importance of
determining the site specific ecological consequences of
the recreational activities, as the assumption that control
is needed may be incorrect (Underwood & Kennelly
1990). By integrating results from recreational use
surveys and the site specific ecological impacts of
recreational activities, management agencies will be able
to devise more effective strategies that will ensure the
preservation of both natural and recreational values of
natural resources into the future.
Acknowledgements
We would like to thank the support of Dr Anthony
Boxshall and Andrew Musgrove from Parks Victoria for
providing us with data on the daily car numbers into
Sorrento ocean beach car park; Janet South from the
Nepean Historical Society for providing us with
information on the history of Sorrento; and to our
fieldwork assistants, Sally Addison, Rodrigo Azubel,
Katrina Fine, Elizabeth Moh and Kirsteen Roberts. This
manuscript has benefited from comments from Geoff
Wescott, Anthony Boxshall and Elizabeth Dane. This
research is a part of the MAVRIC (Monitoring and
Assessment of Victoria’s Rocky Intertidal Coast) project
at Museum Victoria and is funded by Natural Heritage
Trust (Project number: 202244) and supported by Parks
Victoria and the Environment Protection Authority
(Victoria).
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