Tourism, outdoor sports and leisure activities are generally accepted in Natura 2000 (N2000) areas, but N2000 is not a ‘tourist brand’: designating a site as N2000 should not automatically entail the development of tourism in this area.
Although nature conservation aims dominate in Natura 2000 sites, some sites are suitable for tourism. In Central Europe tourism already exists in most of the N2000 sites. In some regions tourism may also benefit N2000 areas economically, politically, as well as for social / educational reasons.
- Tourism, outdoor sports and leisure activities (in the following, summarized as ’tourism’) are acceptable in some N2000 areas
- In N2000 areas with tourism , tourism should be included in the management plans
- Further development of tourism is only possible if it does not conflict with the conservation targets of the N2000 site.
- Tourist access may be limited to less sensitive areas or times of year.
- Tourism development should focus on sustainable eco-tourism. Clear indicators for ecological sustainability need to be developed and implemented.
- In some regions tourism may support grouse protection as it serves as an economic basis for financing habitat improvement measures
Use the benefit of tourism
Tourism can also be beneficial to grouse/ nature protection. Nature tourism can raise public awareness of the requirements of grouse.
- Nature-based tourism raises awareness of nature protection aims. This can be achieved, e.g. by offering tourists a chance to watch grouse without disturbing them (nature-orientated enclosures, lek-watching possibilities).
- Tourists should be given the possibility to participate in habitat improvement or nature protection measures (e.g. the ‘Mountain Forest Project’ = ‘Bergwaldprojekt’).
- Train local people to be guides for nature walks and encourage them to start their own tourism-related businesses.
Tourism may even promote nature protection if nature is seen as a valuable resource for tourism. As a source of income it can serve as an economic basis for habitat improvement measures. However, raising expectations with respect to economic benefits through tourism can lead to economic losses, especially in remote areas.
- If money is charged (entrance fees, parking fees, visitor’s tax etc.) it should be reinvested in nature conservation measures
- Compensation funds (e.g. for development of tourist infrastructure) can be used to finance habitat improvement measures.
- Do not advertise N2000 as a guarantee for income from tourism to the local people
The success of implemented measures (zoning concepts, habitat improvement measures, visitor management etc.) does not only depend on visitor management, but also on the acceptance of these measures by the (local) public.
- Information for tourists (leaflets, guided tours, visitor centres, information boards, presentations etc.) should explain the measures (instead of simply prohibiting certain activities)
- Concepts should be developed in cooperation with different user groups (sporting clubs, alpine clubs, local tourist boards, local entrepreneurs but also foresters and hunters etc.). Such cooperation encourages users to identify with the grouse management and increases its acceptance.
- Different visitor management measures should be developed in order to address different target groups (in cooperation with associations, clubs etc.) including individuals.
- Different information and visitor management should be considered for the local people.
- To raise awareness and increase the acceptance of measures among the local people, they should be involved in the planning and implementation
- Combine nature protection/ information measures with education of and activities for local children
- Give local people the opportunity to do volunteer work (e.g. educational work)
Integrate tourism and grouse protection
Especially in or near densely populated landscapes, the areas that provide grouse habitats are, at the same time, most attractive to tourism. This may lead to competition for space between tourism and nature protection.
- Depending on the area availabe an competition for space between tourism and nature protection, spatial zoning concepts should be developed to define refuges for grouse and activity zones for tourism.
- Transfer tourist infrastructure (paths, cross-country skiing trails etc.) from ‘grouse refuges’ to ‘tourist activity zones’.
- Avoid tourist activities / disturbances in key grouse habitats such as wintering sites and at least within a radius of 1 km around lekking places and brood habitats.
The impact of tourist activities on animals differs seasonally and also depends on the time of day.
- Visitor management should not only include spatial, but also temporal concepts.
- Generally ban tourist / sports events from key grouse habitats, avoid them in all grouse habitats where populations are endangered.
- In sensitive times of year, i.e. winter, the lekking/mating time and breeding time (depending on species and area), access of people to key grouse habitats should be regulated. Visitors must stay on official routes (paths, trails) during these times.
- In the sensitive areas restrict tourist activities to the hours least critical for the birds. These may vary between species and sites. In most cases, the mid-day hours (mid morning to mid afternoon) are least critical.
To manage visitors in protected areas, it is important to have information about visitor preferences, their motivations and needs. The implemented management measures have to be adjusted to the visitors.
- The activity zones have to be made attractive for users (‘honey-pots’) e.g. by well-developed trails, attractions, lookout-points etc…
- The social carrying capacity of visitors has to be taken into consideration. If visitors feel overcrowded, they will move to less used areas, which may be the more sensitive areas, or come during the morning or evening hours, when animals are more sensitive.
Tourism can have negative impacts on grouse populations. Disturbance can lead to habitat degradation or habitat loss. Tourist infrastructure (trails, roads, ski-lifts etc.) causes fragmentation and can lead to habitat degradation. New infrastructure usually leads to an increase of human use in the respective area.
- The development of new tourist infrastructure should be restricted to areas that are already developed (resp. should focus on the ‘activity zones’ according to a zonation-concept).
- Tourist activities/events should be concentrated in areas with existing infrastructure.
- Multifunctional use (different interests in the same area) should be promoted
- Tourist activities in sensitive grouse areas must be strictly regulated and controlled; regulations require regular updating. New trends in outdoor sports (e.g., snow-shoeing off tracks in remote areas) may rapidly create new threats.
The impact of tourism on grouse differs greatly depending on the tourist activities, the landscape conditions and the grouse species. Due to a lack of knowledge impacts often cannot be quantified.
- Visitor monitoring is necessary to identify areas of conflicts
- Grouse species can serve as indicators for disturbances and site quality
- A combination of research concerning tourism / recreation and nature protection (e.g. assessment of the ecological dimension of the recreational carrying capacity) is necessary
Differences within Europe
There are big differences throughout Europe regarding tourism, as well as the grouse conservation status. These differences have to be considered when applying the guidelines to the different European regions.
In the following, the differences of selected aspects of ‘grouse and tourism’ are estimated and illustrated for the different regions: