Visitor behaviour and best practice visitor services in European protected areas

Authors: Bryony Slaymaker

Year: 2016

Publisher: EUROPARC Federation


Protected areas have a pivotal role to play, not only to ensure that nature is protected for the future, but also for people to experience nature. Recreation can be a major ecosystem service and can contribute to conservation and wildlife protection; for example, by providing a funding stream (Schagner et al, 2016). However, recreation has to be balanced with the importance of protecting biodiversity and it is well recognised that high footfall can have an impact on habitats important for wildlife. Managers of protected areas have difficult trade-offs to make to ensure biodiversity is protected but people have the opportunity to enjoy and explore these areas and build their connection with nature. A disconnection to nature is often cited as the one of the greatest threats to the natural world. Disconnection leads to disinterest and disinterest can breed potentially destructive behaviour at the expense of the environment. Connection to nature is considered to be an important predictor of both subject wellbeing and ecological behaviours (Mayers & Franz, 2004. Lumber et al, 2017); however, recent evidence suggests a very high level of connection is required before pro-environmental or pro-nature behaviours are demonstrated (RSPB con-sci, 2017). Furthermore high connection to nature in childhood is not necessarily a predictor of connection or behaviour later in life although linear data is not yet available for this (RSPB con-sci, 2017).