Biodiversity attracts visitors to national parks

Abstract

To cope with the funding constraints of biodiversity protection, nature-based tourism, which is regarded as an important ecosystem service, is considered as an option for creating revenues for biodiversity conservation. Here we show that Finnish national parks (NPs) with high biodiversity values are more attractive for visitors than parks with lower biodiversity values, providing evidence on the direct linkage between biodiversity protection and the provisioning of ecosystem services in protected areas. We found that the number of visits NPs received annually, i.e., their attractiveness, was positively associated with the number of Natura2000 habitat types and occurrences of species considered threatened in Finland according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Red List Categories and Criteria. Interestingly, recreational use also overlapped spatially with areas containing high biodiversity values: the number of occurrences of threatened species and Natura2000 habitat types were on average higher close to recreational routes than among randomly picked control areas within NPs. Our results emphasise the need for careful planning and park management in protecting biodiversity in NPs. However, these connections between biodiversity and recreational use of NPs are striking examples of “biophilia”, the human need for and love for nature, and can be used to engage the public more strongly with biodiversity issues.

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Acknowledgments

We thank A. Eskelinen, A. Hekkala, M. Hovi, E. Hurme and two anonymous referees for their comments on the previous draft of this manuscript. Data on Finnish national parks were kindly supplied by Natural Heritage Services of Metsähallitus. We acknowledge funding from the Finnish Academy (114490) and technical assistance from the staff of Oulanka Research Station and H. Antikainen.

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Correspondence to Katja Kangas.

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Communicated by Jani Heino.

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Siikamäki, P., Kangas, K., Paasivaara, A. et al. Biodiversity attracts visitors to national parks. Biodivers Conserv 24, 2521–2534 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-015-0941-5

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Keywords

  • Biophilia
  • Biodiversity
  • Ecosystem services
  • Habitat richness
  • Nature-based tourism
  • National parks
  • Species richness