Mandatory interpretation for coastal protected areas

  • Mark Ashley Roberts

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis set out to address conflicts that arise when nature based tourism is present in coastal settings, by seeking to develop a management technique that reduces the negative impacts of tourism. Mandatory interpretation is a term used to describe scenarios whereby visitors are required to partake in an interpretative experience prior to gaining access to an area. This study considers the role and suitability of mandatory interpretation in reducing negative visitor impacts in coastal protected areas. The research aimed to explore mandatory interpretation as a visitor impact management tool, identifying circumstances under which it is appropriate and effective to develop a set of requirements or guidelines for the introduction of mandatory interpretation into the visitor impact management strategy of coastal protected areas. In order to achieve this aim the research was divided into two phases.

Three key indicators were used in the assessment of the effectiveness of the mandatory interpretation programme at Hanauma Bay Nature Reserve, Hawai’i, United States of America. By comparing responses to questionnaires from pre- and post- visit samples, this study found that the mandatory interpretation programme added to visitor knowledge of the site and visitors’ intentions to behave in an environmentally appropriate manner. Observation and interviews with management, staff and volunteers added depth of understanding to the results obtained through the questionnaire survey. Furthermore, secondary data, interviews and observations were used to explore and document the mandatory interpretative process at Hanauma Bay Nature Reserve. The results formed the background on which the second phase of research was based.

Using the previous findings the second phase of research set out to investigate how, if at all, and under what circumstances mandatory interpretation may be implemented with a multiple access point site. By conducting focus group surveys with resource managers and a visitor questionnaire survey, within Chichester Harbour Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, United Kingdom, this thesis was able explored the appropriateness of mandatory interpretation in the amelioration of on-site visitor impacts. Research identified scope for the inclusion of mandatory interpretation that creates a captive audience, within the visitor impact management plans of coastal protected areas.

The results from this study suggest that mandatory interpretation, if carefully designed, is capable of contributing towards reduced visitor impacts through development of knowledge and resulting behavioural intentions. Ultimately, reduced visitor impacts help to conserve the biodiversity values of the coastal protected area. Mandatory interpretation is ideal for coastal protected areas with single access points that suffer significant visitor impacts, and should be based on high quality interpretative media as well as clear and consistent messages. Implementation of mandatory interpretation within multiple access point sites may prove more difficult. However, the research yielded useful results that may help inform managers on how mandatory interpretation may be implemented.

Overall, this thesis provides a foundation for additional research into, and a basis on which, mandatory interpretative programmes may be developed. Providing a set of practical implications and generic guidelines for its implementation that includes the conditions under which mandatory interpretation is: (i) appropriate; (ii) effective; and (iii) by developing an appreciation of how best to design, implement and evaluate mandatory interpretive programmes.
Date of Award2013
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorJonathan Potts (Supervisor) & Timothy Goodhead (Supervisor)

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