Mild Recreational Activities Can Disrupt Ecosystems

New research published in Conservation Letters has shown that even supposedly mild recreational activities can have a dramatic impact on ecosystem structure. Researchers surveyed 28 national parks in the US, examining population densities of coyote, bob-cat and grey foxes in areas where land was open to the public, where access to land was restricted and land where access was prohibited.

The results showed that the numbers of coyote and bobcat present in the areas open to the public were significantly lower than in those areas with no access allowed. This was matched by a corresponding increase in non-native and domestic animals (dogs and cats) in the areas allowing public access and recreation. The researchers conclude that even activities such as hiking or bird-watching can have a disruptive effect on these ecosystems.

The scientists acknowledge the important role played by access to green spaces in generating willingness, and funds, to conserve them but call for new tools for conservation planning which take into account the impact of human recreational activities on the species living in protected areas.

Original article: Science for Environment Policy

Original research paper:
Reed, S.A. and Mereniender, A.M. (2008).Quiet, Nonconsumptive Recreation Reduces Protected Area Effectiveness. Conservation Letters. DOI: 10.1111/j.1755-263X.2008.00019.x.