Action: Provide paths to limit the extent of disturbance
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A before-and-after study from the UK found that two species of wader nested closer to a path, or at higher densities near the path, following resurfacing, which resulted in far fewer people leaving the path.
Studies have shown that visitors keep to paths when they are provided, thereby reducing disturbance to the wider habitat without the need for specific access restrictions (e.g. Pearce-Higgins & Yalden 1997).
Pearce-Higgins, J.W. & Yalden, D.W. (1997) The effect of resurfacing the Pennine Way on recreational use of blanket bog in the Peak District National Park, England. Biological Conservation, 82, 337–343.
Supporting evidence from individual studies
A before-and-after study from March-July in 1986-1988 and 1996-1998 at a moor and bog site within the Peak District, England (Finney et al. 2005), found that Eurasian golden plovers Pluvialis apricaria avoided a significantly smaller area surrounding a path after it was re-surfaced, compared with before (birds avoided areas up to 200 m from the path before re-surfacing vs. areas 50 m from the path afterwards; birds showed no avoidance on weekdays after re-surfacing). Before resurfacing, up to 30% of walkers left the path, afterwards only 4% left it. The study found no evidence that plover reproduction was adversely affected by disturbance around footpaths.
A before-and-after study (Pearce-Higgins et al. 2007) using data from the same surveys as in (1) found that dunlin Calidris alpine occupancy within 200 m of the footpath increased by 50% following path re-surfacing in 1994 (35 birds seen before resurfacing vs. 57 afterwards). However, the authors caution that this was not a significant increase, probably due to small sample sizes. The study found no evidence that dunlin reproduction was adversely affected by disturbance around footpaths.
- Finney S.K., Pearce-Higgins J.W. & Yalden D.W. (2005) The effect of recreational disturbance on an upland breeding bird, the golden plover Pluvialis apricaria. Biological Conservation, 121, 53-63
- Pearce-Higgins J.W., Finney S.K. & Yalden D.W. (2007) Testing the effects of recreational disturbance on two upland breeding waders. Ibis, 149, 45-55