Reed said she did not expect these findings. She and many other conservation biologists assumed that activities such as hiking or horseback riding were relatively benign, she said. "I was surprised that the difference was so dramatic," Reed said.
Adina Merenlender, cooperative extension specialist in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management and senior author on the study, said the findings "are probably the most surprising results that have come out of my lab to date."
The differences in carnivore populations are even more surprising when you consider that these animals are most active at night, dawn and dusk, and that people visit parks during the day, Reed said. "We assumed that carnivores and people were avoiding each other in time and space," she said.
Reed was initially conducting a different study on carnivores when she realized that the differences in their numbers between sites with and without public access were so large that they obscured the data she was looking for. "The evidence I was seeing was strong enough that it warranted a study of its own," Reed said.
For her study, which will be published in the September 2008 issue of the journal Conservation Letters but is now available online, Reed chose 14 parks in Marin, Sonoma and Napa counties and paired them with 14 nearby preserves with no public access. Each paired park and preserve had to have similar characteristics, such as size and amount of nearby development. The 14 parks include Jack London and Annadel state parks and Shiloh Ranch and Spring Lake regional parks in Sonoma County.
Historically, people have tended to view recreation and conservation efforts as tightly linked, especially when it comes to land management. Parks aim to both protect natural resources and allow visitors to enjoy them. But if this enjoyment is act
|Contact: Rachel Tompa|
University of California - Berkeley