Outdoor recreation in protected areas bad for wildlife

New York, Dec 18 (IANS) Recreation activities in protected areas such as hiking impact wildlife mostly in negative ways, a study said.

Nature-based outdoor recreation is the most widespread human land use in protected areas and is permitted in more than 94 per cent of parks and reserves globally, the researchers said.

Hiking, a common form of outdoor recreation in protected areas, can create a negative impact by causing animals to flee, taking time away from feeding and expending valuable energy, the study said.

“People generally assume that recreation activities are compatible with conservation goals for protected areas,” said lead author Courtney Larson from Colorado State University in the US.

“However, our review of the evidence across wildlife species and habitat types worldwide suggests otherwise,” Larson noted.

Protected areas include national parks, wilderness areas, community conserved areas, nature reserves and privately-owned reserves.

The researchers reviewed 274 scientific articles published between 1981 and 2015 on the effects of recreation on a variety of animal species across all geographic areas and recreational activities.

More than 93 per cent of the articles reviewed, indicated at least one impact of recreation on animals, the majority of which or 59 per cent were negative.

Decreased species diversity, survival, and behavioural or physiological disturbance such as decreased foraging or increased stress are among the negative effects of outdoor recreation in protect areas, according to the study published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Surprisingly, studies of hiking and other non-motorised activities found negative effects on wildlife more frequently than studies of motorised activities.

However, since motorised activities generally cover a larger area, their influence on animals can also be widespread.

“They can also result in other environmental impacts, such as soil loss and vegetation disturbance,” Larson said.

–IANS

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