New studies reveal detrimental impact of visitors on Snowdonia wildlife
Dale Spridgeon, local democracy reporter
A series of biodiversity surveys into the three years of contrasting visitor numbers during and after the Coronavirus lockdowns has given “a rare opportunity” to understand human impact on the landscape and wildlife of Snowdonia.
In the Spring of 2020, many popular sites across North and west Wales were closed to the public as Covid 19 raged across the country.
Many areas were completely shut off, whilst others just experienced fewer visitors due to the virus regulations and travel limitations.
This “exceptional period” provided the Snowdonia National Park and areas across north west Wales to be studied in a series of biodiversity surveys by environmentalist Ben Porter.
The surveys were commissioned by Natural Resources Wales, the National Trust and the Snowdonia National Park Authority, in June 2020.
The three years of contrasting visitor numbers have provided a “good opportunity “for comparing data.
Assessing impacts on wildlife, the surveys also looked at levels of litter and the general impact on the landscape within the National Park.
A third report highlighted some” key findings” which revealed how nature reacted to an increase in visitor numbers at popular sites.
“A reduced abundance and diversity of birdlife” was a running theme throughout the report in many sites including the uplands, woodlands and coastal areas.
The number of breeding birds and species recorded were lower in all of the sites for a variety of reasons.
These included, an increase in visitor numbers in the uplands, and disturbance from recreational motor crafts and paddleboards in coastal areas.
Erosion was also a “key feature” of the report following two extremely busy visitor seasons in a row, leading to a concentration of walkers eroding footpaths such as Cwm Llan on the Watkin Path for Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon), and coastal vegetation being trampled on in Ynys Llanddwyn.
A “braided” series of mountainside paths were also created on the slopes o Y Garn in Cwm Idwal.
However the reports did note “one positive sign” – a reduction in littering compared to “a spike” in 2021.
The environmentalists suggested they were “slightly lower totals in 2022 compared to 2021.”
The impact a press statement says was “likely due to the relentless work of groups such as Caru Eryri, the National Park Authority’s warden and volunteer warden teams, and other groups such as Trash Free Trails.
In a statement, Ben Porter, ecologist and author of the report said:
‘It is clear that there are big challenges facing Eryri and its wildlife, from widespread littering issues to increasingly severe weather events amidst an escalating climate crisis, threatening some of the unique species that exist here.
“I hope that the results from these surveys will help to reinforce the work of those managing the National Park in balancing the needs of local people and visitors, whilst ensuring that we can see the natural heritage of this spectacular area of Wales flourish into the future.
“The Snowdonia National Park Authority, The National Trust and Natural Resources Wales are working together on numerous projects and strategies to reduce the effect of visitor numbers on the landscapes and biodiversity.”
Work includes a long-term sustainable approach to tourism and transport in the region which will be an environmentally friendly way to visit north west Wales, and in turn lessen the impact on wildlife and habitats.
Partners involved in the report monitor visitor numbers with footpath counters at some of the busier sites and trails in the area.
Staff and volunteers are also on the ground from the authorities to raise awareness and offer advice.
Issues inlcude dogs around nesting birds in Spring, littering and other ways of minimising visitor impact and carbon footprint.
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