10 de março de 2014

Urban sprawl and protected areas: How effective are buffer zones inreducing recreation impacts on an urban national park?

A. Arnberger, R. Eder, K. Taczanowska, R. Deussner, G. Stanzer, T. Hein, S. Preiner, I. Kempter, U. Nopp-Mayr, K. Reiter, I. Wagner, R. Jochem

5th Symposium for Research in Protected Areas
10 to 12 June 2013, Mittersill
Conference Volume pages 21 - 26

New housing developments for tens of thousands of new local residents in the 22nd Viennese district will increase the recreation use pressure on the nearby Donau-Auen National Park and the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Untere Lobau. These areas are intensively used settings and the high use pressure caused by urban sprawl will further negatively impact the natural resources and the quality of the visitor experience. This study investigated planning and management options regarding their capability to reduce the visitor pressure on these areas. The main challenge was how can the existing large-scale agrarian-dominated areas surrounding the park be transformed into attractive recreational landscapes. Stakeholders from several administration bodies and scientists from various disciplines developed these scenarios, which included a bundle of landscape design, land use, traffic and recreational infrastructure measures. In addition, measures to restore the ecological integrity of the area were included. An agent-based model tested the effectiveness of these buffer zone scenarios. The definition of agents (=virtual visitors) and their decision making algorithms included several approaches such as an image-based conjoint choice survey among area visitors and visitor counts. The agent-based simulations indicated that these buffer zones can only absorb up to 30% of the recreation use pressure.

National parks within the borders of larger cities provide many ecosystem services for urban population. They are biodiversity hot spots, produce for example drinking water, regulate hot summer temperatures, and provide wildlife viewing, recreational, spiritual and eco-tourism opportunities and wellbeing for their visitors (DANIEL et al. 2012). They are also refuges from hectic city life and the work environment and are settings for social gatherings (ARNBERGER et al. 2010; HAMMITT 2002). At the same time, they are confronted with high recreation use pressures throughout the day, week and year because of their attractiveness. Crowding, recreational conflicts, and degraded environments may occur within urban protected areas and reduce the recreational quality they offer. Serious conflicts between recreation use and nature conservation management can arise because users may displace due to overcrowding to areas of high ecological value and, thereby, potentially reduce undisturbed zones and times for wildlife (ARNBERGER & BRANDENBURG 2007).
The Viennese part of the IUCN-category II Donau-Auen National Park, which also includes the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Untere Lobau, is such an example of a heavily used urban protected area (Figure 1). This area is a traditional, intensively used, recreational setting of high ecological value as documented by more than 600,000 visits annually (ARNBERGER 2006). New housing developments for tens of thousands of new local residents will further increase the recreation use pressure on the nearby national park. This development will result in drastic transformations of the local environments surrounding the park. About 50,000 new local inhabitants are expected within the next 15 years (ARNBERGER et al. 2012). The increasing high recreation use pressure will further degrade the park’s natural resources and the quality of the recreational experience because of crowding and user conflicts (ARNBERGER et al. 2010; EDER & ARNBERGER 2012).
This study, which was co-financed by the Austrian Man & the Biosphere Programme (ÖAW-MAB), investigated planning and management options regarding their capability to reduce the visitor pressure on these areas (ARNBERGER et al. 2012). Urban sprawl is obviously one of the relevant research priorities affecting this and many other protected areas in the world. The question of arises whether protected areas under pressure can fully achieve their objectives in terms of protection of processes, ecological functions and biodiversity, and recreational quality.

This study tested a rather new method mix to simulate the effectiveness of several recreational scenarios regarding their capability in reducing recreation impacts on the protected area. This study relied on interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approaches, which required substantial resources. Nevertheless, the simulation of the scenarios assessed their effectiveness and thus can avoid suboptimal and costly planning and management measures. While first evaluations of the simulations indicate that results are reliable, further analyses which specifically compare stated with revealed behaviour of respondents are necessary. The integration of other (recreational) areas surrounding the national park and the new settlements into the simulation programme may provide a more holistic understanding of recreation use patterns in the region. A comprehensive long-term monitoring programme addressing the effects of urban sprawl on the national park and its ecosystem services would be useful. This would also include surveys among visitors and local residents on a regular basis investigating their perceptions of recreation quality and their responses to degrade environments and crowding.

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