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Getting out and about at Ningaloo: understanding visitor travel networks for better management of a fringing coral reef

Smallwood, C.B., Beckley, L.E. and Moore, S.A. (2009) Getting out and about at Ningaloo: understanding visitor travel networks for better management of a fringing coral reef. In: 84th Annual Australian Coral Reef Society Conference, 25 - 27 September, Darwin, NT.


Historically, studies on the fine-scale patterns of recreational use on coral reefs have been rare, even though this information is necessary for successful management with respect to biodiversity conservation, resource allocation and visitor satisfaction. Visitors are attracted to particular attributes of coral reef environments (e.g. spectacular coral viewing or fishing opportunities) and these are accessed via nodes of coastal infrastructure and travel networks. Defining the travel networks of visitors is one objective of a project mapping human use at Ningaloo, which is a diverse fringing coral reef system extending ~ 300 km along the coast of north-western Australia. Over 12-months, face-to-face interviews were conducted with 1 208 recreational participants to collect information about their movements to, and within, the NMP. All data were geo-referenced and entered into a Geographic Information System. Three types of networks were defined: (1) travel from accommodation to (or within) the NMP for shore and boat-based recreation, (2) travel from beach access points for shore recreation and (3) travel from a launch site for boat-based recreation. For shore-based recreation, visitors travelled a median of 6.8 km from accommodation but only walked 0.1 km from their beach access point. In contrast, for boat-based recreation, interviewees travelled a median of 1.8 km to their launch site but motored a further 4.6 km to their recreation site. The results highlight strong clustering at coastal access points with rapid distance decay. There are several implications for planning and management of human use in these coral reef environments which are derived from the disjunct, node-focused nature of visitor use. For example, any provision of coastal access roads will have dramatic effects in terms of concentrating visitor use in that locale which can lead to overcrowding and habitat degradation. A clear understanding of both marine and coastal travel networks can thus allow managers to focus their attention and resources in appropriate areas.

Item Type: Conference Item
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Environmental Science
Conference Website:
Notes: Oral presentation
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