Washington, March 3 : In a new study, ecologists have found that ski tourism is raising stress levels among a species of birds known as capercaillie in Europe, which could harm the birds' fitness and ability to breed successfully.
Carried out by ecologists from Switzerland, Germany and Austria, the study warns that forests should be kept free from tourism infrastructure if they are inhabited by capercaillie - a species whose numbers are declining markedly across central Europe.
For the research, the team of ecologists, working in the Southern Black Forest in Germany, collected the birds' droppings before and after the start of the ski season, and analysed them for levels of the breakdown products of the stress hormone corticosterone.
They found that levels of the breakdown products of the stress hormone were significantly higher in birds living in areas with moderate or high levels of ski tourism.
According to Dr Lukas Jenni of the Swiss Ornithological Institute, ski tourism affects both habitat use and stress hormone levels in capercaillie, and this could adversely affect their body condition and overall fitness.
"Human recreation activities in winter could be especially harmful to capercaillie because of the birds' reliance on a diet of low-quality conifer needles," said Jenni.
"Because of this, we recommend that managers keep forests inhabited by capercaillie free from tourism infrastructure and retain undisturbed forest patches within skiing areas," he added.