Aquatic ecosystems in inland Australia: Tourism and recreational significance, ecological impacts and imperatives for management
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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.
Marine & Freshwater Research
Copyright 2012 CSIRO. This is the author-manuscript version of this paper. Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher. Please refer to the journal's website for access to the definitive, published version.