Austria’s river landscapes have been greatly altered by human activities, especially in the last century, which has had a negative impact not only on ecological functionality, but also on the usability of flowing waters as recreation areas. The highly reduced supply of natural and natural rivers currently requires that water-bound recreational and recreational uses often affect ecologically sensitive areas. Areas newly created by revitalisation measures are often quickly used by recreational seekers, which can lead to conflicts between human use and ecological needs.
The aim of the thesis was to bring together these different perspectives in river landscape management. The project therefore primarily explored the question under which spatial and structural conditions river landscapes have the greatest multifunctional potential. A further focus was placed on the usage habits and preferences of river users. From these demands, an interdisciplinary project design was developed, which was based on a sectorally separate recording of ecological and social functions and reunited them at the result level. Social and planning science, quantitative and qualitative methods were used. For example, observations, qualitative interviews with users and experts, a standardised survey as well as area mapping for selected ecological indicator species (river runners, river plovers) were carried out. Three alpine river valleys were selected as study areas: the Ennstal (Steiermark), the Drautal (Carinthia) and the Lechtal (Tyrol).
In an integrative analysis of the results, the accessibility of a river space in combination with direct access to water and the presence of shallow water areas emerged as essential prerequisites for the usability of river sections. In principle, users were relatively tolerant of other users.
On the other hand, however, they showed a critical attitude towards usage restrictions coupled with a relatively low sensitivity to ecological disturbances, which poses a challenge especially for the acceptance of management measures. In addition, the spatial analysis showed a preference for natural heterogeneous river sections, which relatively often led to a spatial overlap between recreational use and the habitats of the two indicator species. It turned out that a large range of areas led to a much more diffuse distribution of users. Utilisation concentrations were observed mainly on the two rivers with limited area supply, where this also leads to greater spatial competition between recreational function and ecological requirements.
In conclusion, there seems to be a broad consensus that flowing waters have an important recreational function, but no culture for ecologically and socially acceptable handling of this need. In order to be able to meet both requirements in terms of long-term management solutions, the multifunctional resilience of river landscapes must be increased in time by means of an improved range of areas and structures.
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