How does tourism affect the flora and fauna of the Kurgalsky Nature Reserve and how can this unique area be preserved? Nord Stream 2 AG commissioned scientists from St Petersburg University to conduct the first complex study of the impact of tourism on the nature reserve.

The results of the study were presented by the Head of the Laboratory for research of socio-economic and political processes of modern society of St Petersburg University Sergei Ivanov at the 20th International Environmental Forum 'Baltic Sea Day'.

The International Environmental Forum ‘Baltic Sea Day’ is held annually in St Petersburg with the support of the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission (Helsinki Commission - HELCOM), and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of the Russian Federation.

The Kurgalsky Nature Reserve is particularly popular among local residents and tourists in the Leningrad Region. The protected area is famous for its rich flora and fauna, including rare plant and animal species that are itemised in the Red Data Books. However, the large flow of tourists is a factor that has a negative impact on biodiversity. In August and September 2018, more than 2,500 cases of violation of the visiting regime were registered, including: rubbish dumping, illegal fishing, illegal car parking, and camping in undesignated areas.

During the complex study, specialists from St Petersburg University were able to assess and measure the tourism and recreational impact on the Kurgalsky Nature Reserve. The scientists also: monitored social networks; conducted public surveys and in-depth interviews with tourists and experts in summer and autumn last year; and worked with focus groups that included members of the public. As a result, they were able to identify the main tourist parking areas and purposes of visits to the reserve. The data collected allowed them to outline the prospects for the development of the area and to develop recommendations for improving the tourism management system.

Summing up the overall work, the researchers mentioned several proposals made by the study participants. Firstly, the respondents recommended the development of tourism infrastructure: to arrange places for lodging and catering, car parks, and containers for rubbish collection. Secondly, they proposed to establish which places are accessible and which are closed to tourists (e.g. bird nesting places, colonies of ringed seals). Third, they advised punishing violators with fines. The local population and experts agreed that a special control body should be established to regulate tourist activities in the reserve.

This is the first time that a study on a specially protected natural area of such a scale has been conducted in the Leningrad Region. The results of the survey will help to determine the prospects for the development of the reserve in view of the increasing tourism and recreational pressure, as well as the development of recommendations to improve the system of regulation of activities in this territory.