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Spatial and environmental patterns of off-road vehicle recreation in a semi-arid woodland

Westcott, F. and Andrew, M.E. (2015) Spatial and environmental patterns of off-road vehicle recreation in a semi-arid woodland. Applied Geography, 62 . pp. 97-106.

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Outdoor recreation is a widely recognized cultural ecosystem service. Ensuring that appropriate, high quality recreation opportunities are available requires, among other factors, knowledge of the environmental preferences of recreation users and spatial indicators of where those environmental features exist on the landscape and offer the potential to meet recreation goals. Diverse types of outdoor recreation exist, and different forms of recreation may be associated with different environmental features. The focus of this study is off-road vehicle (ORV) recreation. We demonstrate how readily available spatial environmental datasets, including high resolution image data provided within GoogleEarth, can be used to develop a cost-effective, objective indicator of ORV recreation across a landscape, which can inform management to provide desired recreation opportunities while protecting ecologically sensitive areas.

ORV recreational tracks were delineated from GoogleEarth imagery throughout our study area in the Great Western Woodlands of Western Australia. In this region, ORV use is a popular recreation activity and a growing concern of conservation organizations, but is not yet actively managed. Most recreational ORV tracks in the study area are informal and user-created. Mapped ORV recreation tracks were used to model and map the environmental associations of ORV recreation. The pattern of existing tracks indicated associations between recreation and noteworthy environmental amenities in the study area such as the shores of salt lakes and rock outcrops with high ecological and cultural value. However, one of the most important determinants of ORV track presence was accessibility, especially proximity to a road. Access infrastructure, such as proximity to roads, is often used to proxy demand and use in expert-based spatial assessments of ecosystem services. The results of our empirical model underscore the importance of incorporating patterns of both supply (i.e., desired natural amenities) and demand (i.e., access) into ecosystem service assessments. In addition, when integrated with maps of environmental sensitivity and more detailed information about human use, the predictive map of areas providing potential recreation experiences can be used for comprehensive spatial planning of sustainable ORV recreation. One possibility suggested by our results is that careful planning and management of access routes may be an effective means to achieve sustainable ORV recreation.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Veterinary and Life Sciences
Publisher: Elsevier
Copyright: © 2015 Elsevier Ltd
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