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Ranger and visitor management systems in protected wetland areas in the Canton of Aargau

Graf, C.

Graf, C., 2016: Ranger and visitor management systems in protected wetland areas in the Canton of Aargau. Master thesis.


Graf, C. 2016: Ranger and visitor management systems in protected wetland areas in the Canton of Aargau. Masterarbeit geleitet von Prof. Felix Kienast und Janine Bolliger (beide WSL). D-USYS, ETH Zürich.


Visitor management is a common instrument to guide people along protected areas and to provide outdoor recreation activities. It consists of different measures that either control (direct) or aim to alter (indirect) the behavior of visitors and local residents. Many studies assessed the effectiveness of visitor management measures in protected areas, revealing that direct measures are more effective but indirect measures more appreciated by visitors. The main goals of this Master thesis were (a) to examine the current state of visitor management in five wetland areas in the Canton of Aargau and (b) to establish suggestions to provide both satisfying recreation experiences and protection of sensitive sites. Thus, a literature review, expert interviews with managers of the five study areas and a survey with visitors in two areas were applied.

The results of the expert interviews revealed that the visitor management in the five study areas all differ in the amount and distribution of the implemented measures. These differences can be explained by various types of protected habitats, the belonging to a decree area and the age of the visitor management.

The analysis of the survey showed that the visitors in the areas Aarau-Wildegg and Reussebene rated both direct and indirect measures as effective to protect nature from the negative impact of outdoor recreation. This outcome is in accordance to findings from other studies. However, there are differences between the areas: the respondents in the area Aarau-Wildegg rated the direct measures significantly less effective than the respondents in Reussebene. Also, the order of the measures that were rated the most effective differ between the two study areas and the suggestions for improvements or ideas on how the area would develop if no visitor management would be implemented in the area. Reasons for those different assessments and concerns might be that the visitors have different conceptions of nature conservation in mind and that the conservation history (either long established protected areas in Reussebene versus newly restored floodplains in Aarau-Wildegg) influenced the assessment of the measures.

This Master thesis reveals a number of practice-oriented results ranging from expert assessments of visitor management measures to visitors’ views of the measures including suggestions for further measures and activities. Due to the small number of interviews, the results are not representative but show clear tendencies that would have to be confirmed or rejected in a representative survey.