Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 16, Issue 12, pp 3633–3651 | Cite as

Ecotourism disturbance to wildfowl in protected areas: historical, empirical and experimental approaches in the Camargue, Southern France

  • Matthieu Guillemain
  • Romain Blanc
  • Christelle Lucas
  • Michel Lepley
Original Paper

Abstract

Ecotourism is becoming very popular, especially in protected areas where wildlife concentrate and is easier to observe, but the consequences of associated disturbance have seldom be quantified other than in the short-term, making the sustainability of this activity untested. We combined a historical, an empirical and an experimental approach to assess the long-, medium- and short-term consequences of disturbance to wintering wildfowl (Anatidae) in a wetland of international importance in the Camargue, Southern France. In the short-term, disturbance made teal (Anas crecca) move away temporarily from observation blinds without leaving the waterbody. Wildfowl fed more after disturbance, disrupting their normal resting activities. In the medium-term, waterbodies with more tourists did not host fewer birds: conversely the most heavily disturbed one hosted the highest wildfowl density. In the long term, wildfowl numbers were not related with the number of visitors. When practiced with appropriate guiding of people, and where appropriate facilities are provided to limit human disturbance as done here, ecotourism may not affect wintering wildfowl other than reversibly in the very short term. The legitimate demand of the public for access, even in fragile protected areas, may therefore be sustainable under some conditions.

Keywords

Anascrecca Anatidae Camargue Ecotourism Human disturbance Protected areas Sustainability Teal Wildfowl Winter 

Notes

Acknowledgements

We would like to thank all those who helped during the collection of data at Marais du Vigueirat, especially Grégoire Massez, Jean-Baptiste Noguès, Mathieu Chambouleyron, Jeanne Marques, Kevin Durque and Patrice Noble. We are grateful to Nathalie Hecker and Jean-Laurent Lucchesi for their support and for their help with historical data, and Dan Blumstein and an anonymous referee for their constructive comments on an earlier version of this manuscript. This study received funding from the Agence de l’Eau Rhône-Méditerranée-Corse.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthieu Guillemain
    • 1
  • Romain Blanc
    • 1
    • 2
  • Christelle Lucas
    • 2
  • Michel Lepley
    • 1
  1. 1.Office National de la Chasse et de la Faune Sauvage, CNERA Avifaune migratriceArlesFrance
  2. 2.Association des Amis des Marais du VigueiratMas ThibertFrance

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