Ulster University project preserving County Donegal trails




  • In Science
  • 2022-11-16 15:49:32Z
  • By BBC
 

Ulster University (UU) is working in collaboration with Donegal County Council to protect the sustainability of popular walking trails.

The project, known as Trail Gazers, is to help protect popular trails in the county from environmental harm.

Part of a wider EU project, the university has created a dashboard that maps the level of footfall on trails.

The data and insights it generates are then used to try and future-proof the maintenance of the walking trails.

Through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) technology, UU is able to provide the council with a forecast of visitor numbers based on present and past use of particular trails.

The council said it is also hoping to generate customer insights from the project in order to monitor and potentially boost tourism levels.

Some of the trails the university are monitoring include the Inch Levels Wildfowl Reserve in Burt, County Donegal.

Footfall levels in certain areas of the trail in Inch need to be controlled throughout the year to minimise the possibility of adverse environmental impact.

Wildlife ranger Lee McDaid said the footfall sensors at Inch Wildfowl Reserve play a crucial role in "identifying and responding to potential environmental pressures on the site".

"The functionality within the Trail Gazer dashboard now enables us to understand user patterns in very localised areas at particular times of the year," Mr McDaid said.

"This evidence base will directly inform our site management plan and drive location specific conservation actions."

Prof Elaine Ramsey, from Ulster University, said the project has provided the "foundations and pathways" to future trail development and sustainability.

"The technical products developed in the project, including the footfall dashboard, have helped to identify optimal future trail management strategies, in particular around sustainability," Ms Ramsey said.

Catherine McLaughlin, from Donegal County Council, said the project has provided "a collective platform that has brought us closer to nature and the environment".

"The data and key learnings and knowledge generated from the project will better inform the development of future community trail plans and strategies."

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