University of Bayreuth, Press Release 025/2022, 01 March 2022
Outdoor sports and nature conservation: the "Digital Ranger"
Skiing and snowshoeing tours regularly lead people through wildlife protection areas. Arne Schwietering from Bayreuth’s Sports Ecology research group is investigating solutions to this problem in his "Digital Ranger" project.
Today, outdoor sports are mostly planned via apps or outdoor platforms. In the process, tours are often created and carried out by users that contradict the nature conservation regulations of the districts, natural parks, and nature conservation organisations involved. To address this problem, the research project "Digital Ranger" is working out what information needs to be made available on outdoor platforms, and in what way, in order to promote a nature-friendly sports experience.
In the project phase, Bayreuth Sports Ecology is working together with Naturpark Fichtelgebirge e.V., Naturpark Nagelfluhkette e.V., Adventure Campus at Treuchtlingen University of Applied Sciences, Digitize the Planet e.V., and Outdooractive AG. Building on successful best practice examples, various ways of providing digital information are being implemented on outdoor platforms. Automated surveys in the field using camera traps and the evaluation of digital data from outdoor platforms will quantify the impact of these measures on the behaviour of sportspeople. At the same time, surveys of outdoor athletes on the reasons and motivation for their behaviour will allow further conclusions to be drawn.
The Nagelfluhkette e.V. natural park and the Fichtelgebirge e.V. natural park are two attractive research areas for the project. Here, Arne Schwietering will examine the effects of the applied best practice examples for information transfer on the basis of illegal tours frequently conducted in protected areas.
"Many sportsmen don't even know how much damage they cause when they disturb wildlife in winter. Others, meanwhile, actively seek an endangered plant and pick it for their herbarium, and both have to be taken into account," he says.
The knowledge gained in the project will also be used to promote sustainable tourism in other protected areas. Information required for this will be made freely available via a database operated by Digitize the Planet e.V. and processed in such a way that outdoor platforms will be able to make automatic use of the data. Accompanying scientific studies will demonstrate the global relevance of the topic and introduce possible solutions to international research.
The project is open for cooperation. To this end, at the beginning of the project, experts and other interested parties will be integrated via workshops in order to critically reflect on the procedure and to gain further cooperation partners.
"We are pleased to be making an important contribution to the sustainable and mindful use of sensitive habitats, and to be proactively and scientifically supporting this development in the field of digital tour planning," says Lina Wansel, Chairwoman of the VAUDE Sport Albrecht von Dewitz Foundation, which supports the project together with the Upper Franconia Foundation and the Rainer Markgraf Foundation.