Harmonizing outdoor recreation and bird conservation targets in protected areas: Applying available monitoring data to facilitate collaborative management at the regional scale

J Environ Manage. 2017 Aug 1;198(Pt 1):248-255. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2017.04.069. Epub 2017 Apr 30.


In protected areas managers have to achieve conservation targets while providing opportunities for outdoor recreation. This dual mandate causes conflicts in choosing between management options. Furthermore, the persistence of a protected species within the management unit often depends on how conservation areas elsewhere in the region are managed. We present an assessment procedure to guide groups of managers in aligning outdoor recreation and bird conservation targets for a regional scale protected area in the Netherlands. We used existing bird monitoring data and simulated visitor densities to statistically model the impact of outdoor recreation on bird densities. The models were used to extrapolate the local impacts for other parts of the area, but also to assess the impact on conservation targets at the regional level that were determined by the national government. The assessment shows impacts of outdoor recreation on Nightjar (Caprimulgus europaeus), Stonechat (Saxicola torquata) and Woodlark (Lullula arborea), reducing the regional population by up to 28 percent. The Woodlark population size was reduced below the level of the politically determined conservation target. The output of the regression models provides information that connects implications of local management to regional scale conservation targets. The spatial maps of bird densities can help in deciding where reducing visitor disturbance is expected to result in increasing bird populations, or where alternative measures, such as improving the habitat conditions, could be effective. We suggest that by using our assessment procedure collaborative decision making is facilitated.

Keywords: Acceptable change; Birds Directive; Impact; Statistical model; Visitor disturbance.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Birds
  • Conservation of Natural Resources*
  • Ecosystem
  • Netherlands
  • Recreation*