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J Environ Manage. 2011 Oct;92(10):2723-33. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2011.06.012. Epub 2011 Jun 25.

Snorkelling and trampling in shallow-water fringing reefs: risk assessment and proposed management strategy.

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Faculty of Life Sciences, Department of Marine Biology, University of Vienna, Althanstrasse 14, 1090 Vienna, Austria.


Shallow reefs (reef flats <1.5 m) in the northern Red Sea are impacted by growing tourism that includes swimmers, snorkellers and reef walkers but have largely been neglected in past studies. We selected a fringing reef along the lagoon of Dahab (Sinai, Egypt) as a model for a management strategy. Point-intercept line transects were used to determine substrate composition, coral community and condition, and the coral damage index (CDI) was applied. Approximately 84% of the coral colonies showed signs of damage such as breakage, partial mortality or algal overgrowth, especially affecting the most frequent coral genus Acropora. Questionnaires were used to determine the visitors' socio-economic background and personal attitudes regarding snorkelling, SCUBA-diving and interest in visiting a prospective snorkelling trail. Experiencing nature (97%) was by far the strongest motivation, and interest in further education about reef ecology and skill training was high. Less experienced snorkellers and divers--the target group for further education and skill training--were those most prepared to financially support such a trail. We therefore recommend a guided underwater snorkelling trail and restricting recreational use to a less sensitive 'ecotourism zone' while protecting the shallow reef flat. Artificial structures can complete the trail and offer the opportunity to snorkel over deeper areas at unfavourable tide or wind conditions. This approach provides a strategy for the management and conservation of shallow-water reefs, which are facing increasing human impact here and elsewhere.

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