As has been described for whales and seals, tourism also disturbs marine and coastal birds. A study in Central Chile showed that the presence of humans impacted negatively on birds, altering their spatial and temporal distribution. During the summer tourist season when people converged on the coast, disturbance levels to the bird colonies were highest. Another study, carried out in the Galapagos Islands, showed that tourists changed the behaviour of red footed and blue footed boobies. Levels of disturbance were correlated to the distance kept between individual tourists and the birds.


Picture courtesy of NOAA.

Disturbance from tourists at times involves physiological costs to the birds. By flying away from a disturbance, birds can experience an increase in heart and respiratory rate, an increase in blood flow to skeletal muscle, a rise in body temperature, a rise in blood sugar levels, and a reduction of blood flow to the skin and digestive system. The energetic costs of escaping such disturbances, added to the time lost from normal feeding and foraging can become detrimental to the animal. Should the disturbance intensify or become more frequent, fitness of the animals might be reduced ultimately leading to breeding failure. Loss of strength may also increase the risk of predation and disease. Moreover, some animals may migrate to a different area in order to avoid tourist disturbance potentially leading to altered ecological community structures. This in turn may have impacts on the remaining species, possibly facilitating invasion of exotic species. As species differ in their ability to withstand disturbance some sensitive species will be more seriously affected.

printed on 2014/04/19 01:15:09