Tourism that leaves its mark: five places in Europe where your holidays can benefit nature

Sarah Faith is a content and values ​​writer at activist travel company, Responsible Travel.

There are only 40-60 Marsican bears left in the world. They all roam the wild mountains and ancient beech forests of the central Italian Apennines.

A vacation there could be the key to your salvation.

While the Marsican brown bears are not alone in their plight, there is hope. A recent study has shown that European wildlife is fighting back, with populations of a range of species, from beavers to bison, golden jackals and gray wolves, increasing dramatically since the 1960s.

Tourism that goes beyond leaving no trace can accelerate this recovery. It’s called nature-positive tourism, and contrary to the original goals of ecotourism, it’s 100 percent about leaving a mark. A positive footprint that delivers tangible benefits for nature and the local communities called upon to protect it.

Working with vacation companies across the continent, Responsible Travel has begun mapping places where tourism is restoring habitats and helping wildlife to thrive.

Here are five places in Europe where your vacation can help save nature.

Help reduce human-bear conflict in the Italian Apennines

The mountains and meadows here, less than two hours from Rome, may seem remote compared to the city, but this is hardly untouched desert.

The last refuge of the Marsican bears in Europe it has fragmented and degraded. And it’s the people, protecting their horses and cattle, who still pose the biggest threat to bears now.

All of that could be about to change.

The development of responsible nature-based tourism is giving the local population another option. Create opportunities for them to stay in rural towns and benefit financially from the wildlife that surrounds them.

Rather than resent bears, tourism here aims to reduce human-bear conflict while protecting and rebuilding their habitat. Take a hike through the central Apennines with Exodus Travelsand you will help rebuild 100 square meters of land just by booking your trip.

Increase the number of Dalmatian pelicans in Skadar lake, Montenegro

Surrounded by dramatic karst mountains, the calm waters of Skadar Lake stretch out on either side. montenegro and Albania. They offer some of the best kayaking and wild swimming in Europe.

It is also an important breeding ground for one of the rarest birds in Europe: the huge Dalmatian pelican. This majestic animal has a wingspan of more than three and a half meters.

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Tourism companies here are working with the Skadar Lake National Park and CZIP (a Montenegrin charity for the protection of birds). They are funding the installation and maintenance of artificial breeding platforms to increase the number of nesting birds.

And it’s working. The number of Dalmatian pelicans in Skadar Lake has almost doubled in the last five years, with estimates that the natural lake biodiversity it could bear many, many more.

Swim, kayak, hike and explore on a Family vacation on Skadar Lake and help continue the work to protect pelican rookeries.

Become a citizen scientist in Alonissos, Greece

tourism is a double edged sword for dolphins and the endangered Mediterranean monk seals of the Alonissos and Northern Sporades National Marine Park. It is the largest marine protected area in Europe.

Pollution from coastal resorts and shipping traffic, fishing debris, and bycatch from commercial fishing, is having a devastating impact on the health of the marine mammals that live here. But tourism is also paving the way for their protection.

Join natural greece and the Hellenic Society for the Study and Protection of the Monk Seal (MOm) on a sailing holiday that combines relaxation Greek island life with citizen science.

On board, you’ll learn how to record sightings of Risso’s dolphins, striped dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, short-beaked common dolphins, and more.

The data it collects is added to a continuous repository of information that is used to inform future conservation actions in the Aegean.

Protect the UK’s natural biodiversity in Devon, UK

The quintessential green and friendly land of the UK is not as much of an idyll for wildlife as we might like to think. With only 53 percent of its natural biodiversity remaining, the UK is one of the most naturally depleted countries in the world.

But a farmhouse turned holiday accommodation in the North Devon Biosphere Reserve shows what tourism can do for beleaguered natives. wildlife.

A stay in one of the off-grid cabins or eco-lodges in wheat farm helps set aside 21 acres of land here for wildlife, not food.

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And in doing so, it has regenerated a Site of Special Scientific Interest that is home to a carpet of wildflowers, bees and butterflies.

Help the mountains of Serra de Estrela, Portugal, recover from forest fires

Sheep farming and other rural industries have taken their toll in the Serra de Estrela Natural Park, the largest protected area in Portugal.

While they may shape the cultural landscape, traditional human activities are at odds with sustainable living in forests. Y recent forest fires – the living effects of climate change – have devastated large areas of the park. Tourism is vital to help this region recover economically without resorting to mineral exploration or more destructive industries.

Stay in valley of moses, a yoga retreat dedicated to the sustainable management of his corner of the Serra de Estrela forest.

The retreat produces its own compost (which it uses to improve soil quality), has reintroduced native species, and is clearing undergrowth to allow large trees to thrive. The latter is a natural way to curb future wildfires and floods.

Save ancient forests in Swedish Lapland

from Sweden The big logging industry is touted as one of the most sustainable in the world. But behind a cloak of green credentials lie thousands of square kilometers of ancient boreal forest, carpeted with berries and lichen, razed to the ground to produce paperwood and biomass pellets.

70 percent of Sweden’s lichen-rich old-growth forests have been lost in the last 60 years.

And it’s not just Swedish wildlife that depends on these irreplaceable forest ecosystems. Sami indigenous communities, whose reindeer feed on the lichens, do too. Their culture and livelihoods are inextricably intertwined with the survival of the reindeer they herd.

Although there is hope. Recently, indigenous groups, conservationists and youth activists have called for a change in Swedish forest policy. They hope to reduce the amount of clearcutting and increase the use of forests for other products, including tourism.

wild sweden uses nature-based forestry tourism to demonstrate that rural areas can generate sustainable income by keeping their ancient forests standing. Track elk, experience the thrill of a husky sleigh ride, catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights and stay in a remote Sami camp on this wild winter adventure.

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