Series: Informationsdienst Naturschutz Niedersachsen Volume: 2016/1
72 pages, illustrations
Language: German with bilingual summary in English and German
Kitesurfing is a relatively new recreational activity that emerged internationally at the end of the 1990s and has been applied at many European spots in the early 2000s for the first time. Very soon it became obvious that kitesurfing could be an equally strong or even stronger disturbance stimulus on birds as windsurfing. Yet to date there are only a few studies on the effects and impacts of the new sport. This paper provides an overall view of the various studies and their results and tries to give a synoptic account of bird reactions to kitesurfing. Since kitesurfers themselves tend to underestimate the impact of this sport, there is a great demand for reliable data from the perspective of nature conservation.
The material gathered for the evaluation includes 17 studies from five countries (England, Germany, Netherlands, New Zealand, Switzerland), twelve of which describe the effects of kitesurfing on birds in coastal habitats, one study highlights the reactions of migrating birds at the open sea and four studies refer to large inland waters. Ten of the 17 studies were conducted explicitly in order to investigate the effects of disturbance caused by kitesurfing. The seven remaining studies referred to the whole range of human disturbance stimuli occurring at a study site, among which kitesurfing is only one disturbance type. Almost all studies are unpublished, so-called grey literature, while one study has been submitted to a journal for publication and was made available beforehand.
As is obvious, the material is very heterogeneous, especially since the methods for recording and measuring the disturbance stimuli differ between studies. Thus, the task at hand was to extract the universal or rather applicable findings from the multitude of information gathered from the different studies. Additionally the extreme data presented in the studies had to be interpreted to evaluate the potential of conflicts between kitesurfing and waterbirds.
The results of the studies on effects of disturbance of kitesurfing compiled in this work clearly demonstrate a requirement for the protection of important habitats for waterbirds. Data suggest strong evidence that unregulated pursuit of kitesurfing would affect the conservation status of each bird habitat, its species, and communities significantly. Therefore kitesurfing is banned at many sites already or limited to distinct zones outside. At these surf spots the exercise is regulated by specifications. From a conservation perspective, this is mandatory, especially in coastal habitats
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