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GOLF COURSES INCREASE BIODIVERSITY
You can now hit balls knowing that you contribute to the protection of nature. A scientific study has confirmed that golf courses increase the number of species in the countryside.
It was not long ago that you could read in the newpapers how playing golf harmed nature. Environmental activists claimed that the construction of golf courses destroyed valuable biotopes. In the process, species of animals, insects and plants were endangered. It has now become clear that it's exactly the other way round. Environmental scientist Ray Semlitsch of the University of Missouri and his colleagues looked at golf throught the eyes of unbiased experts. They observed how biodiversity (or the variety of species) changes after a new course is opened.
The romantic idea of nature is as a silent forest untouched by humans, where entry is strictly prohibited to protect this alleged frailty, but from the point of view of biodiversity such a forest resembles a corn field. It is desperately uniform and virtually nothing interesting lives in it. Experts have now increasingly adopted the view that nature protection based on the "myth of the untouchable" is nonsense. Unlike forests, valuable nature is varied. The ideal is actually a rich mosaic of groves, bushes, meadows, wetland and other landscape features. However, such countryside will not last without human intervention. If there was no human activity in the countryside, everything would become overgrown by a "boring" forest with only a few species. That is why environmentalists increasingly appreciate places created by human activity, which make the countyside biologically more interesting. They look at military areas, dumps, abandoned quarries, railway embankments and other places that we unreasonably consider "spoilt".
And that is why a golf course is a good neighbour. In a common agricultural landscape full of fields (or in a landscape full of forests) it becomes an "island of diversity" where you can find various biotopes next to each other. Greenkeepers carefully mow some parts of the course, thereby creating a steppe you can't find anywhere else in the country.Elsewhere they create artificial ponds and brooks and embankments from gravel and stones, or they let the shrubbery grow. The course thus differs from the "uniform" neighbourhood by virtue of its diversity. Ray Semlitsch's scientific team has found that golf courses provide valuable shelter to many species of endangered fauna and flora. The scientists made a pilot study on amphibians in which they compared the survival of selected species in golf course lakes on one hand, and lakes outside golf courses on the other. They were quite surprised to find out that amphibians survive much better on golf courses. And the best thing to do is to drain the water out of golf lakes in the autumn. This deters the alien American bullfrog, which otherwise enjoys feasting on valuable native amphibians.
Altough there is no such study for Bohemia, it is highly probable that it would come to the same conclusions. If we let the Czech landscape become overgrown with forest (as many activists would wish), we would do it a disservice. Golf courses can provide space for a larger amount of species than a forest. Golf might therefore become a favourite game for hundreds of enlightened conservationists.