Impact of water-based recreation on aquatic and riparian biodiversity of small lakes


Lakes offer important recreational sites for people; however, water-based recreation may interfere with conservation objectives. In this study, we examined the impact of recreational use of small stagnant water bodies (<22 ha) on several aquatic and riparian biodiversity indicators (species richness, Simpson diversity-index, and number of endangered species) across multiple taxa (waterfowl, songbirds, damselflies, dragonflies, amphibians, fishes, submerged macrophytes, riparian herbs and trees). Samples were generated from 39 gravel pit lakes in Lower Saxony, Germany. Recreational use intensity was quantified using a stratified roving creel survey design involving citizen scientists. Recreational use had little correlation with the different biodiversity indicators that we examined. Most of the variance in biodiversity was explained by non-recreation related environmental and land use variables. Yet, a consistent negative relationship between recreation and biodiversity was found for dog walking, which was negatively associated with the species richness of songbirds, fish, and riparian herbs. Other recreational effects were positive, e.g., increased human use intensity correlated positively with the species richness of fishes and riparian herbs. Moreover, lakes used exclusively by anglers hosted a larger fish species richness at the expense of amphibian richness, likely due to predation impacts by fish. The abundance of dogs was found to be more influential in terms of recreation-related impacts than human density per se, possibly because wildlife perceives dogs as a stronger threat stimulus than human presence. Experimental work is needed to substantiate the correlative evidence presented here.

Schafft, M., Nikolaus, R., Matern, S., Radinger, J., Maday, A., Klefoth, T., Wolter, C., Arlinghaus, R. 2024. Impact of water-based recreation on aquatic and riparian biodiversity of small lakes. Journal of Nature Conservation, 78, 126545.

Published : 2024
Appeared in : Journal of Nature Conservation, 78, 126545