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Gesche Kindermann
Protected coastal dune systems: Recreational impacts and users’ perceptions regarding nature conservation with specific reference to machair
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With recreational use of coastal areas rising, the pressure from these activities on coastal dune systems is increasing. While many coastal areas are designated as conservation areas, little has been done to date to assess the impacts of recreational activities on machair, a sand dune habitat awarded priority status in Ireland.  Using aerial photographs in conjunction with ecological surveys, the impacts of recreational activities on three Irish study sites containing machair was assessed. The results confirm increases in damage from recreational users driving across the sites, with machair being one of the habitats most damaged. This indicates a need to manage recreational use at these conservation sites. Different management approaches, including educational, regulatory, physical and economic can be applied to control recreational impacts on habitats. This study investigates the degree to which there are differences in opinion between stakeholders in Ireland, Scotland and Germany in relation to recreational management in coastal conservation areas and assesses whether there are examples of perceived best management practice in resolving issues that could be applied to some or all of these countries. This was done through stakeholder interviews and the use of Q-methodology, with results indicating agreement between countries on the conservation of coastal sand dunes and differences on recreational use and management of these areas. This study further compares the impacts of conservation designation and access legislation on machair in Ireland and Scotland. The two countries differ in their countryside access legislation and conservation status of machair, both of which was assumed to impact on stakeholder opinions regarding machair management. This was found not to be the case in relation to Irish and Scottish stakeholders, however, conservation designations were a cause for disagreement between conservationists and non-conservationist stakeholders.
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