A summary of potential effects
Modification of habitat
Disturbance to wildlife
Intertidal areas can come under considerable
pressure from recreational activities as not only do they support
a variety of land based activities, such as walking and horse
riding, but they also provide access channels to the water for
There are a range of potential impacts which
land-based recreational activities may have on the natural environment.
Some will be as a direct result of the activity (e.g. erosion
caused by trampling), whereas others are indirect (e.g. the
clearing of land to provide parking or other facilities).
Changes to the feature associated with land-based
recreation do not necessarily lead to impacts. The level of
acceptable change determines the stage at which a site-level
change will become an impact.
Impacts associated with trampling vary according
to the nature of the site, the soil which constitutes the feature,
and the levels and types of recreational activities.
Impacts are particularly severe in and around
sand dune areas. This is because these areas form major access
points to beaches and also possibly because participants are
unaware of their significance and vulnerability.
As with soil compaction, erosion of a feature
is also caused by exertion of pressure. However, the greatest
erosional forces exerted on a feature come from natural sources
such as rain, wind and, in the intertidal area, wave action
As recreational activities tend to be concentrated
along specific access routes or in small areas, their impact
can be magnified, causing significant erosional patches within
a site or feature. Such erosion is particularly evident in coastal
areas frequented by walkers and in the vicinity of heavily used
access points. Recreation may have a particular erosional impact
on sand dunes and sand flats.
Modification of Habitat
The construction of car parks and other landside
development often involves extensive site preparation and can
result in feature modification and impact.
Over the longer term, the magnitude of impacts
from formal car parking may be partially offset by a reduction
in the impacts associated with unmanaged parking in sensitive
areas, such as in between sand dunes.
Recreational participants may be a localised
source of litter, although much of the litter found on beaches
and intertidal areas originates from other landside sources
or from ships.
Disturbance to Wildlife
Seals are a particularly attractive species
for wildlife watchers. As a result, accessible colonies of seals
in mSAC areas are coming under increasing pressure from visitors.
These visitors can cause disturbance to the seals, although
the long-term impacts are uncertain.
Disturbance to birds may result from many activities.
The evidence of the impact of these short term events on wider
population levels is not conclusive.
Where used too close to dry vegetation, disposable
barbecues can decimate large areas of vegetation in sensitive
areas. Vegetated sand dunes are particularly susceptible as
people often light barbecues in close proximity to car parks
or in-between sand dunes in an attempt to avoid the wind.