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Birdwatching, logging and the local economy in the Białowieża Forest, Poland

Abstract

Birdwatching is one of the fastest growing subsectors of ecotourism, and can contribute substantial income to the local economy in areas with high bird diversity. The Białowieża Forest (BF) is one of the most popular places to watch birds in Europe and is visited by thousands of birdwatchers every year. They are attracted by its particularly high diversity of bird species, many associated with the BF’s old-growth characteristics, including sizable populations of almost all European woodpeckers. These species are threatened by logging activities that are being undertaken on the assumption that forestry is important for the local economy. Our aim was to compare the revenue from birdwatchers with the revenue from other tourists visiting the BF to counter the economic justification for logging. Based on 165 responses to a structured questionnaire, our results show that one birdwatcher spends USD 64.6 per day on average, compared to USD 38.6 per day by other visitors to the BF. Birdwatchers also stay in the BF longer than other tourists (3.8 and 2.5 days on average, respectively). The total estimated local expenditure of approximately 14,000 birdwatchers in 2016 is almost USD 2.2 million. In contrast, since 2005, forest management and the sale of wood from the BF has led to economic losses each year, which we suggest would be further exacerbated by the impact of continued logging on birds and resultant inevitable decline in income from avitourism.

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Acknowledgements

We heartily thank the Białowieża National Park authorities for providing data on the number of tourists. This work was supported by the Siedlce University of Natural Sciences and Humanities, Poland (Theme No. 446/15/S financed from a science grant by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education).

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Correspondence to Wiesław Walankiewicz.

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This article belongs to the Topical Collection: Biodiversity exploitation and use.

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Czeszczewik, D., Ginter, A., Mikusiński, G. et al. Birdwatching, logging and the local economy in the Białowieża Forest, Poland. Biodivers Conserv 28, 2967–2975 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-019-01808-6

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Keywords

  • National park
  • Birdwatching
  • Recreational birding
  • Nature-based recreation
  • Economic value
  • Białowieża Forest