To what extent can mine rehabilitation restore recreational use of forest land? Learning from 50 years of practice in southwest Australia
Land Use Policy
Centre for Ecosystem Management / School of Science
Funding information available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.landusepol.2019.104290
When mining affects natural or semi-natural ecosystems such as forests, rehabilitation often aims at restoring biodiversity. However, to what extent does rehabilitation also restore cultural ecosystem services? This paper investigates the perception of two groups of recreationists that use rehabilitated bauxite mine areas in southwest Australia, bushwalkers and mountain bikers. The area has been continuously mined and progressively rehabilitated for over 50 years. Research was developed through: (i) mapping the distribution of recreation trails, mined areas and rehabilitated areas; (ii) conducting in-depth interviews with recreationists regarding perceptions and usage of forest areas and; (iii) an online survey to gauge forest characteristic preferences for recreational use. The data was subjected to statistical and qualitative analysis. Results showed that bushwalkers usually avoid mined areas while mountain bikers do not and that the recreationists’ perception of rehabilitated areas is largely shaped by the absence of large and old trees and natural landforms. We found that meeting regulatory requirements for rehabilitation, as measured by ecological indicators, does not automatically correlate with acceptable social outcomes. Conclusions highlight the value of reframing mine rehabilitation practices to accommodate cultural services in post-mining land use planning considerations alongside the well-established ecological goals so as to explicitly demonstrate the social benefits of rehabilitation.