Sustainable ecological and recreational management of sandy beach systems

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Sandy beaches are a primary focus of recreational and other pressures from growing coastal populations, and are major natural and economic assets for national and international tourism, but have not received adequate research attention prior to this study. Although the limited ecological research to date indicates that the nearshore volumes of sandy beach systems may be as biologically productive as estuaries and wetlands, the management of sandy beaches has not been based on ecological or sustainability principles. In this study, the principles and goals of ecologically sustainable development (ESD) are applied in investigations designed to develop improved ecological and recreational management of metropolitan sandy beach ecosystems, whereby ecological functions are maintained simultaneously with recreational and related uses. The conventional view that sandy beaches are resilient to recreational use, and are more likely to be seriously impacted by other forms of human activity, seems to have precluded serious research investigation of questions such as: what are the responses of both beach biota and human users to environmental variables influencing the system; what are the simultaneous levels, distributions and diversity of beach biota in relation to levels, distributions and categories of beach users; and what ecological impacts are likely from human beach use on biota at points of interaction, temporally and spatially? From the first section of the project, it has been shown that our present understanding of the functions, processes and responses to human disturbances of sandy beach ecosystems is extremely poor, compared with that of rock platforms. New methodologies have been developed in the current study for experimental investigations into aspects of sandy beach ecology and recreational use which have never previously been considered. Relationships between environmental variables and categories of beach use have been quantified, and show promise for use in predictive modelling to guide management. Current approaches to the management of sandy beaches and beach recreation, as aspects of environmental and coastal resource management, were then critically examined. The structures, functions and decision-making procedures of the major spheres of government, and their management agencies, were evaluated and found to provide inherent obstacles to effective ecological and recreational management of ecosystems. Coastal resource and beach management by public agencies were assessed for Durban and Sydney. Comparative analysis has provided information that can be used to develop guidelines for integrated ecologial and recreational management of sandy beach systems. In a synthesis of all of the above findings, a new procedural model has been constructed, for sustainable ecological and recreational management of sandy beach systems. This model is proposed as a framework for future integrated coastal resource research and management. Note: Three published papers have been produced from the research in this study, and have been presented at conferences, being Sinclair-Hannocks and Keane (1992) at the Sydney Sister City Environmental Summit; Sinclair-Hannocks (1993) at the World Leisure and Recreation Association Congress; and Tsang and Sinclair-Hannocks (1993) at the Local Government and Environment Conference.
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