Effects of recreation on animals revealed as widespread through a global systematic review

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Outdoor recreation is typically assumed to be compatible with biodiversity conservation and is permitted in most protected areas worldwide. However, increasing numbers of studies are discovering negative effects of recreation on animals. We conducted a systematic review of the scientific literature and analyzed 274 articles on the effects of non-consumptive recreation on animals, across all geographic areas, taxonomic groups, and recreation activities. We quantified trends in publication rates and outlets, identified knowledge gaps, and assessed evidence for effects of recreation. Although publication rates are low and knowledge gaps remain, the evidence was clear with over 93% of reviewed articles documenting at least one effect of recreation on animals, the majority of which (59%) were classified as negative effects. Most articles focused on mammals (42% of articles) or birds (37%), locations in North America (37.7%) or Europe (26.6%), and individual-level responses (49%). Meanwhile, studies of amphibians, reptiles, and fish, locations in South America, Asia, and Africa, and responses at the population and community levels are lacking. Although responses are likely to be species-specific in many cases, some taxonomic groups (e.g., raptors, shorebirds, ungulates, and corals) had greater evidence for an effect of recreation. Counter to public perception, non-motorized activities had more evidence for a negative effect of recreation than motorized activities, with effects observed 1.2 times more frequently. Snow-based activities had more evidence for an effect than other types of recreation, with effects observed 1.3 times more frequently. Protecting biodiversity from potentially harmful effects of recreation is a primary concern for conservation planners and land managers who face increases in park visitation rates; accordingly, there is demand for science-based information to help solve these dilemmas.




Larson, C. L., Reed, S. E., Merenlender, A. M., & Crooks, K. R. (2016, December 1). Effects of recreation on animals revealed as widespread through a global systematic review. PLoS ONE. Public Library of Science. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0167259

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