Last week I took a little vacation in the tiny town of Sackville, New Brunswick. I was hesitant to go, mostly because I wouldn’t have internet access (hence my absence from the blogosphere), but also because I had no idea what to do during the daytime. However, I was pleased to find myself surrounded by beautiful scenery and plenty of wildlife.
New Brunswick is full of surprises.
Like the Sackville Waterfowl Park, which offers 4 kilometers of trails and boardwalk through wooded areas and over open water. I’m not usually one for solo-treks through wetlands, but I couldn’t resist such a picturesque and well-routed adventure.
I enjoyed the boardwalk trail through the marshlands which allowed me to easily spot species of duck, grebe, widgeon and yellow-legs. Purple and white flowers were peppered amongst a sea of green vegetation, while cattails appeared intermittently on either side of the boardwalk. The experience was thoroughly relaxing and serene, although I recommend stopping into the visitor’s centre before heading out to find out which birds you should keep your eyes open for.
This sort of ecotourism is appearing all over the country. As a biologist, I am often asked for my opinion on ecotourism. Is it destructive? Is it better than leaving the land alone? Should we support it?
It’s short-sighted to think that an installation of ecotourism is better than protecting the habitat. No matter how minimally destructive our presence, human disturbance will have some an impact on the species present or the landscape.
At the same time, the benefit of ecotourism goes far beyond the boundaries of a park or preserve. People are the best defenders of habitat destruction. Our voices can protect countless species and ecosystems. Teaching tourists the value of an ecosystem, its services, and a respect biodiversity is critical if we are to protect other such sites.
Particularly in cases like these often-misunderstood marshlands.
These muddy sites can be the home of a wide range of species, from amphibians to small mammals, provide breeding grounds for waterfowl, and habitat for a variety of bird species. But it’s not just animals that are worth saving; plant species that cover the land provide a food source, a site for carbon sequestration, and protect the area from desiccation. Marshland ecosystem services include flood control and land stabilization, ground-water purification, and even carbon storage. These are important both within the marsh ecosystem and to the surrounding area.