FEATURES,  Features

Open water swimming and the environment

How capturing the benefits of open-water swimming can help to promote better management of swimming sites

Humans have long known the joys of swimming in open water and, at least anecdotally, it brings those of us that do it lots of benefits. The non-material benefits that we obtain from interacting with nature through activities such as outdoor swimming have been defined by scientists and policy makers as “cultural ecosystem services”. However, they are hard to define and accurately measure and quantify.

Consequently, the importance of cultural ecosystem service benefits is often overlooked in the management, planning and political decision making, despite an increasing awareness that interacting with nature is critical to our physical and mental well-being. As researchers and open water swimmers, Ross Shackleton and myself are all too aware of the importance of capturing the value of open water swimming. The world’s population is growing and increasingly putting human pressure on the landscape. If we are to manage our aquatic resources, we need to understand their importance to all types of water user, including swimmers, and make sure this is fully communicated to policy makers.

In this survey we want to get an understanding of why swimming is important to you and what sort of benefits you get from it. Is there anything that puts you off getting in for your daily dip? Perhaps some toxic runoff further upstream that is polluting the water, or an outbreak of stinging jellyfish? Personally, spending time on the coast since a young age and regularly sea swimming has made me more environmentally conscious, arguably sowing the seed for a career in marine research. But is this true for all of us? How many of you feel more connected to nature and its conservation after a nice cold dip?

You can find the link to our survey here. Please fill it in for us! Results of this study will be written up and disseminated to policy makers in order to improve the evidence base for policy decisions.

And keep your eyes peeled for a follow up article with the results!

About us

Ross and Louisa are environmental scientists and avid open water swimmers (although Louisa is definitely keener!) They are both interested in the interface between people and nature, and much of their work focuses on environmental conservation in the context of global environmental change issues. If they are not at their desk, you can find them swimming along the Dorset coastline, or in Lake Geneva.

Contact us

If you have any questions about the survey (or any questions in general!) please email either Ross; ross.shackleton@unil.ch or Louisa; louisa.e.wood@gmail.com, and they would be more than happy to chat.

Image (c) @ClareJamesPhotography

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