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Mar Pollut Bull. 2008 Sep;56(9):1646-9. doi: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2008.06.008. Epub 2008 Jul 24.

Beach disturbance caused by off-road vehicles (ORVs) on sandy shores: relationship with traffic volumes and a new method to quantify impacts using image-based data acquisition and analysis.

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Faculty of Science, Health and Education, University of the Sunshine Coast, Maroochydore, Australia.


Vehicles cause environmental damage on sandy beaches, including physical displacement and compaction of the sediment. Such physical habitat disturbance provides a relatively simple indicator of ORV-related impacts that is potentially useful in monitoring the efficacy of beach traffic management interventions; such interventions also require data on the relationship between traffic volumes and the resulting levels of impact. Here we determined how the extent of beach disturbance is linked to traffic volumes and tested the utility of image-based data acquisition to monitor beach surfaces. Experimental traffic application resulted in disturbance effects ranging from 15% of the intertidal zone being rutted after 10 vehicle passes to 85% after 100 passes. A new camera platform, specifically designed for beach surveys, was field tested and the resulting image-based data compared with traditional line-intercept methods and in situ measurements using quadrats. All techniques gave similar results in terms of quantifying the relationship between traffic intensity and beach disturbance. However, the physical, in situ measurements, using quadrats, generally produced higher (+4.68%) estimates than photos taken with the camera platform coupled with off-site image analysis. Image-based methods can be more costly, but in politically and socially sensitive monitoring applications, such as ORV use on sandy beaches, they are superior in providing unbiased and permanent records of environmental conditions in relation to anthropogenic pressures.

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