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This paper discusses the potential impact of climate change upon a specific form of tourism, avitourism (birdwatching), and the resulting effects upon islands dependent upon this form of tourism. Bird populations, distributions and migratory patterns are all vulnerable to the impacts of global warming, extreme weather events and changes in the marine environment, as are the islands which provide their habitat. Avitourism is a lucrative and non-consumptive form of tourism that is of major importance to some small islands, particularly those that have unique indigenous breeding species and/or are visited by migrating species on a regular basis. A number of such islands have bird observatories whose visitors contribute significantly to the small local economies. The implications of climate change on avitourism are identified and summarised, and then discussed in the context of potential impacts on the well-being of island communities. While most climate change predictions are generalised and incapable of being applied to specific locations such as a small island, or particular species of birds, a recent development has provided an opportunity to explore what the impacts might be in some detail. The paper uses the case of Fair Isle (Scotland) to illustrate the effects of a sudden loss of avitourism to that islands’ residents. The accidental destruction of the Fair Isle Bird Observatory in 2019 meant the cessation of avitourism to that island by removing the accommodation used by such visitors since the 1950s, depriving the island economy of tourist expenditure and employment, a potential source of new residents, as well as threatening the viability of other island services, including its access by air. This local catastrophe thus provided a unique opportunity to identify what might happen to other islands if the avian attractions for tourists were to disappear or be changed radically by climate change.
Butler, Richard W. Professor
"The Potential Impacts of Climate Change on Avitourism to Islands: the Example of Fair Isle, Scotland,"
International Journal of Islands Research:
1, Article 4.
Available at: https://arrow.tudublin.ie/ijir/vol2/iss1/4
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