The recreational use of the shore can have adverse effects on the biological community.
The effect of people simply walking on the shore can be damaging. This is particularly
apparent when the topography of the shore causes people to follow a limited number of
routes, leading to the appearance of paths characterised by reduced cover of fauna and
flora (Fletcher, 1997). While such pathways represent a limited area of the shore, they
are nevertheless unsightly. It is also apparent that the lighter trampling pressure
experienced elsewhere on popular shores can cause changes in community structure. For
example, even very light trampling on shores in the Northeast of England was sufficient to
reduce the abundance of fucoids (Fletcher and Frid, 1996) which, in turn reduced the
microhabitat available for epiphytic species. Light trampling pressure has also been shown
to damage and remove barnacles (Brosnan and Crumrine, 1994). Trampling pressure results in
an increase in the area of bare rock on the shore. This might be temporarily colonised by
opportunistic species such as Enteromorpha. However, complete recovery cannot occur
until the pressure is reduced.
In one section we argue that rocky shores have conservation value as a public amenity
whilst in another we identify visitor pressure as a threat to shore communities. Clearly,
this is an area of potential difficulty for the management of rocky shores within SACs.
Pragmatic management policies should simultaneously protect rocky shores from recreational
impacts and allow some degree of public access. Existing evidence suggests that a
combination of public education and limited restrictions on access can minimise
recreational impacts on rocky shores. Both of these measures require a considerable
investment of resources. Site by site assessments of recreational impact and management
may therefore prove worthwhile. Important factors for consideration are listed below.
- The nature and extent of public use of the shore. Higher numbers of visitors result in
greater disturbance. Even light use can alter the community (Fletcher and Frid, 1996).
Some areas of a shore may be heavily used while others are not. Recreational disturbances
usually have a highly uneven distribution.
- The vulnerability of the community. Relatively few studies have considered the
effect of recreational impact on shore communities. It is likely that the effect is
heavily dependent on both the structure of the natural community and the degree of
disturbance. A monitoring programme conducted in tandem with a restriction of access to
certain areas of the shore will give an indication of the local vulnerability to
- The effectiveness of management measures. Assessment of the recreational impact on rocky
shores may identify the need for management measures. Careful monitoring should be
conducted to establish the effectiveness of any measures that are implemented.
The assessment of the sensitivity of rocky shores to recreational
impacts and the development of management policies for these shores should be a priority
area of research within affected SACs. A coordinated research effort between SACs could
lead to significant advances in the understanding and management of recreational impacts.