Tourism pressure on protected areas with attractive landscapes leads to environmental modifications. Eutrophication poses the main threat to the quality of water in alpine lakes. Even small inflows of biogenic elements can disrupt the ecological balance of these ecosystems. The aim of this study was to verify the hypothesis that recreational activities and easy access to alpine lakes contribute to changes in their ecological status. This hypothesis was verified by analyzing the presence of hydromacrophytes in two lakes of the Tatra National Park (Poland). The analysis was carried out along segments of hiking trails which were evaluated for accessibility to the studied lakes. Underwater surveys were carried out during scuba diving expeditions in 2012–2016. Submerged vegetation was evaluated in both lakes. This is the first study in Poland and one of the few projects in the world to have relied on such extensive support from scuba divers to generate highly accurate measurements. The study demonstrated that lake bottoms were extensively covered by Potamogeton friesii
in the vicinity of trail segments with easy access to lakes. Our results show that tourism pressure contributes to the growth of aquatic vegetation in some areas of alpine lakes. We relied on our findings to propose several modifications to the routes of the evaluated tourist trails to minimize the impact of anthropogenic pressure on the studied lakes.
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