Marine and Freshwater Research Marine and Freshwater Research Society
Advances in the aquatic sciences
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Aquatic ecosystems in inland Australia: tourism and recreational significance, ecological impacts and imperatives for management

Wade L. Hadwen A C , Paul I. Boon B and Angela H. Arthington A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Australian Rivers Institute, Griffith School of Environment, Griffith University, Nathan, Qld 4111, Australia.

B Institute for Sustainability and Innovation, Victoria University, Footscray Park Campus, PO Box 14428, MCMC Vic. 8001, Australia.

C Corresponding author. Email: w.hadwen@griffith.edu.au

Marine and Freshwater Research 63(4) 325-340 https://doi.org/10.1071/MF11198
Submitted: 2 September 2011  Accepted: 22 December 2011   Published: 2 April 2012

Abstract

The value of aquatic systems for biodiversity, agriculture, pastoralism and mining is widely recognised, whereas their significance for tourism and recreation is often poorly acknowledged. We surveyed protected-area managers, local governments and tour operators (river and general) to determine how aquatic systems were used in inland Australia for tourism and recreation and the perceived impacts of these uses. Inland waterbodies were reported by all respondent groups to be highly significant foci for visitors. Natural features were rated as more important to visitors than infrastructure by protected-area managers and river-tour operators, whereas all respondent groups identified water clarity, water quality and accessibility to water as important aspects of visitor appeal. Although >75% of respondents nominated visitors as being environmentally aware, visitors were reported to have a range of negative effects on the ecological condition of inland waterbodies, especially on water quality, and to also increase erosion and the loss of fringing vegetation. Managing the recreational use of inland waterbodies will become increasingly important as demand from all sectors intensifies and climate-change impacts become more severe. Management must take into account variations in perceptions by different stakeholder groups and the paradox of inappropriate visitor behaviour despite visitors’ apparent environmental awareness.

Additional keywords: arid zone, ecological condition, local government, protected areas, visitor impacts.


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