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The Role of Golf Courses in Biodiversity Conservation and Ecosystem Management

Colding, J. and C. Folke. Ecosystems (2008)12:191-206


We assessed the ecological value of golf courses based on a quantitative synthesis of studies in the scientific literature that have measured and compared biota on golf courses to that of biota in greenarea habitats related to other land uses. We found that golf courses had higher ecological value in 64% of comparative cases. This pattern was consistent also for comparisons based on measures of species richness, as well as for comparisons of overall measures of birds and insects—the fauna groups most widely examined in the studies. Many golf courses also contribute to the preservation of fauna of conservation concern. More broadly, we found that the ecological value of golf courses significantly decreases with land types having low levels of anthropogenic impact, like natural and nature-protected areas. Conversely, the value of golf courses significantly increases with land that has high levels of anthropogenic impact, like agricultural and urban lands. From an ecosystem management perspective, golf courses represent a promising measure for restoring and enhancing biodiversity in ecologically simplified landscapes. Furthermore, the review suggests that golf courses hold a real potential to be designed and managed to promote critical ecosystem services, like pollination and natural pest control, providing an opportunity for joint collaboration among conservation, restoration and recreational interests.

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Keywords: golf; golf courses; biodiversity conservation; restoration, urban, land-use comparison, ecosystem services

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