Snowdonia bird populations hit by visitor influx


The rising number of visitors to Snowdonia National Park has caused a drop in bird abundance, a report suggests.

The study looked at the human impact on the landscape and wildlife of popular uplands, woodlands and coastal areas across North and West Wales. Reasons for the declines included disturbance from more walkers in the mountains and motor watercraft and paddleboard users on the coast.

Footpath erosion worsened but litter levels fell, the report also said. The surveys were commissioned by Natural Resources Wales, the National Trust and the Snowdonia National Park Authority in June 2020, according to the Local Democracy Reporting Service. "A reduced abundance and diversity of birdlife" was a central theme in the report.

An increase in walkers visiting Snowdonia since the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted bird populations in the area (Marc Fasol).

In the spring of 2020, many popular sites across the region were closed to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many areas were completely shut off, while others just experienced fewer visitors due to the virus regulations and travel limitations.

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 Snowdon's Watkin Path, and coastal vegetation being trampled in Ynys Llanddwyn.

A "braided" series of mountainside paths was also created on the slopes of Y Garn in Cwm Idwal. The reports did note a slight reduction in littering compared to "a spike" in 2021. This reduction was "likely due to the relentless work" of voluntary groups such as Caru Eryri, park wardens and volunteer wardens, and other groups such as Trash Free Trails.

Ecologist and author of the report, Ben Porter, said: "It is clear that there are big challenges facing Eryri (Snowdonia) and its wildlife, from widespread littering issues to increasingly severe weather events amid 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.