Assessing the impact of climate change on visitor behaviour and habitat use at the coast: A UK case study

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Although tourism and recreation can bring economic benefits to an area, the presence of visitors may adversely impact biodiversity, particularly if they make use of sensitive environments. It is anticipated that the effects of global climate change alone may increase the vulnerability of many environments, but these effects may be magnified if warmer and drier weather encourages more visitors, or makes them more likely to participate in ecologically damaging activities. Using case study sites from the UK, this study examines how different types of beach visitors make use of coastal environments. Via a series of visitor surveys, information is elicited on the environmental preferences of a range of visitor types including walkers, bird watchers, and bathers. The use of different habitats by these visitors is also assessed via an analysis of walking routes undertaken in a Geographical Information System. From this, an assessment is made of the likely present day biodiversity impacts arising from different coastal users, and how these may change under a modified climate. This study finds that whilst higher temperatures are expected to increase visitor numbers, warmer weather may encourage greater participation in low impact activities such as bathing. The findings are discussed in the context of coastal management.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)303-313
Number of pages11
JournalGlobal Environmental Change
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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