July 29, 2013
Golf Courses, Turtles, And The Environment
So, golf courses have long felt the brunt for destroying nature. They take land and level it and manipulate it so that the golf course fits the design. However, National Geographic recently wrote about how one study shows that maybe golf courses can give back to the wildlife.
Disclaimer: this is not to support the idea that more land needs to be taken in order to build more golf courses. However, Nat Geo provides some interesting data on what some wildlife-friendly golf courses provide.
Right then, so onto the story. University of Kentucky herpetologist Steven Price, a co-author of the two new turtle papers, and his colleagues wanted to understand the fate of turtles particularly in North Carolina.
To do this, “researchers set out nets baited with tins of sardines in 20 local ponds. Some ponds were on golf courses, others in cattle pastures or neighborhood parks. The scientists checked the traps every other day, extracting any occupants by hand.
The surveys showed that two common species–the painted turtle and the slider–were just as abundant in golf course ponds as in farm ponds, according to a paper in the current issue of the Journal of Herpetology, while neighborhood ponds placed a distant third.”
Furthermore, the golf courses had more turtle species varieties than the farm ponds. The idea is that golf course ponds have better access to surrounding green areas for turtles to use as well. And it wasn’t just turtles that benefitted from the golf course ecology. The researchers “found that courses were more ecologically valuable than farmland in nearly 65 percent of the comparisons made in the studies. More surprisingly, golf courses outstripped state parks and nature reserves in ecological value in half the cases.”
The credit rests partially with the groundskeepers who keep the ponds and surrounding green areas up and clean and organized. Natural ponds and wetlands often fill with silt and other such sediment, which affects how animals, birds, and reptiles use and settle in them. Because the golf courses are more preened and taken care of, the animals, birds, and reptiles can settle more safely and cleanly.
Though this is mostly good news for the turtles, some worry that golf course developers will monopolize these findings to build more courses. This is not what the researchers want. They do want the courses to see these findings as incentive to help these turtles, and other animals, though. This study is not to support more golf courses, which definitely have an environmental impact. Plus, the golf courses do not support species that have demanding lifestyles. So, more is not the goal.
However, there are golf courses that are considered environmentally friendly. And those are providing a home to many species of animal, bird, and reptile. This is good news. This means that something created specifically for human’s benefit is also providing a benefit to the animal world as well. We can breath a happy sigh knowing that some golf courses are actually benefiting more than just the golfers and golf enthusiasts.
I like to see studies like this that show hope for the inhabitants of our planet. I have long struggled with the golf course and its impact, but now, in some instances, the golf course is helpful and hopeful. That is good news.
Image Credit: Thinkstock.com