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The Impacts of Recreational Four-Wheel Driving on the Abundance of the Ghost Crab (Ocypode cordimanus) on a Subtropical Sandy Beach in SE Queensland

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There is increasing concern regarding the impacts of recreational four-wheel driving (4WDing) on sandy beach environments. The ghost crab Ocypode cordimanus is a widely distributed Australian species that utilizes beaches and dunes for constructing burrows and for foraging. Comparisons of ghost crab abundances (using burrow counts) in areas “open” and “closed” to recreational 4WDing were conducted on exposed sandy beaches on North Stradbroke Island, off the coast of southeast Queensland. Beaches where recreational 4WD activity is present had significantly lower ghost crab abundances than beaches where it is absent. The most plausible reason for this difference in abundance is that ghost crabs are highly vulnerable to being crushed by beach traffic when feeding on the beach at night. To mitigate the impacts of recreational 4WDing on ghost crab population management intervention is needed. Possible changes to the management of recreational 4WD activity include the setting aside of areas free of recreational 4WD activity for the conservation of biodiversity, or a prohibition on driving on the beaches between dusk and dawn. There is also a need for a consistent and transparent approach in Queensland for quantifying and monitoring 4WD activity in sandy beach environments.
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Keywords: Ocypode; four-wheel driving; ghost crabs; recreational impacts; sandy beaches

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Environment Management Centre School of Geography, Planning and Architecture University of Queensland, St. Lucia, Australia

Publication date: 2006-01-01

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