Human contact with nature is a natural need and a desirable phenomenon. We are part of it, and the more we interact with it, the better we understand it. There will be no awareness of the laws of nature and the consequences of one’s own actions by someone who has spent his entire life in houses made of concrete. However, if we already use the benefits of nature – let’s do it wisely.

There is no such thing as using the environment without affecting it – every action we take is an interference with the ecosystem. Many of us often don’t even realize that seemingly innocuous activities can have significant consequences for the water ecosystem, and this will translate into its condition and our comfort in the future.

We introduce additional biogenes and chemical pollutants, mechanically destroy vegetation, aquatic and over-water habitats and the coastal zone, generate waves, noise and pollution. The question is how deep and irreversible the effects of this interference are. Scale is also important. One tourist is unlikely to destroy the lake, even if he behaves very irresponsibly, but already several thousand users, making similar mistakes, can actually contribute to degradation.

Here are 10 cardinal sins of the unwitting tourist to beware of while on the water. You may not have even known you were committing them.

10 Deadly Sins of the Unaware Tourist

#1 Illegal jetties, wild bathing and mooring in reeds, or destruction of the buffer zone

In order to enjoy the benefits of the water, as a swimmer, angler or sailor, a person must first get to it, which means traversing willows, swampy sedges and a strip of rushes along the shoreline. Such a zone of direct contact between lake shores and land, that is, pre-water marsh and wetland areas, together with the littoral, constitutes a natural buffer zone. This is the most effective “biological filter,” reducing the load of nutrients reaching the waters from the catchment.

Trophic compounds and products of water erosion and various types of pollutants in surface and ground runoff are removed in these habitats by physicochemical processes (sorption), microbial processes (denitrification), in the process of plant growth or by sedimentation. Ecotone zones thus function as effective anti-eutrophication and anti-erosion barriers.

The creation of sites for human access from land to water (and, in the case of boaters, from the water side to the shore) is associated with the destruction of this natural buffer, which fundamentally contributes to an increase in water pollution, the conversion or degradation of habitats and sites for aquatic and arboreal species, and thus the deterioration of the ecological status of ecosystems.

Let’s use water, but pay attention to do it in legally organized places of access to it. Do not create and avoid using wild beaches and bathing beaches or illegal piers, and if you are sailing, try to avoid entering and stopping in the reeds so as not to damage vegetation or frighten animals. Not only are such activities illegal, they also have negative effects on the environment. It is also a very un-ecological activity to tie boats to trees. Rubber strapped to the trunk works, stripping it of bark, phloem and sometimes damaging the pulp. One mooring of a tree won’t kill it, but an entire sailing season can seriously strain it.

#2 Burning campfires outside of designated areas, i.e. why so much PAH?

An outdoor vacation without a campfire? It can’t be! For many of us, it is one of the most pleasant aspects of relaxing in nature, and no one is trying to deprive anyone of this unique attraction. You just have to smoke them safely.

A wildfire is not only a fire hazard, but also a place of destruction of the buffer zone and a potential source of many harmful substances released into the atmosphere during the combustion process. And yes, burning not only coal but also wood is their source. In the smoke you will find primarily particulate matter (PM), but also carbon monoxide, benzene, toluene, styrene, formaldehyde or acrolein. And there are carcinogenic and mutagenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), including the probably well-known benzo[a]pyrene, exceedances of which are one of the primary causes of Poland’s bad water. Among the products of wood combustion we can even find very harmful dioxins.

Remember to burn campfires in designated and properly prepared areas. You can find them in almost all ports and binnacles. Use existing hearths and avoid creating new ones – this not only increases the destruction of the coastal and buffer zone (trampling/cutting of vegetation), but also generates an additional source of combustion products and increases fire danger. According to the law, a bonfire can be burned no less than 100 meters from the forest boundary and no less than 10 meters from the fields; it would be great to ensure also a distance of at least 100 meters from the shore of the lake – this will certainly save damage to the buffer zone. And when ending the campfire fun, always remember to put it out.

#3 Physiological needs in the bush, or additional nitrogen supply

Everyone has physiological needs, and we can’t avoid that, but taking care of them in the proverbial bushes is not only unsightly and unsanitary, but also a burden on the environment. It would seem to be no big deal, however, it all depends on the scale. Estimates are available that one person using the bathing area generates an additional load of 1.0 g of nitrogen and 0.046 g of phosphorus per day. Assuming a very modest 60 warm days a year, we get a sizable dose of nutrients. And there can be several thousand tourists at a single lake.

Therefore, always try to take care of your physiological needs in places designated for this purpose, in ports, marinas, waterfront pubs, organized rest areas. If you are sailing, make sure your yacht is equipped with the right type of toilet, emptied in ports equipped to receive sewage. And of course, such a toilet must not be emptied into the water!

However, if you need to take care of your needs in the field, be sure to do it at least 100 meters from the shore or even further away. Impurities left closer, sooner or later will seep into the water in the form of biogenic compounds, contributing to the phenomenon of eutrophication, resulting in reduced water clarity, oxygen deficiency, fish die-off and the disappearance of many animal species. The further away you go, the more chance you give the soil to filter out impurities. Don’t forget the shovel!

#4 Using detergent to wash in the lake, or an extra dose of phosphorus

It would seem that in an age of widespread access to bathrooms, kitchens and washrooms (even on camping trips), the phenomenon of washing up or washing dishes in the lake has become a thing of the past. Unfortunately, it still happens, as we ourselves witnessed not long ago last year. And it’s not in the washing or dishwashing that the problem lies, but in the chemicals used for it.

Laundry detergents, all-purpose cleaners or dishwashing liquids contain harmful chemicals (primarily phosphates) that contribute to eutrophication, resulting in reduced water clarity, oxygen deficits, fish die-offs and the disappearance of many plant and animal species. Their cleaning properties are due to the presence of surfactants – surface-active substances that reduce the surface tension of water.

Anionic and non-ionic surfactants have toxic effects against certain strains of bacteria and algae, as well as aquatic invertebrates (tests on Daphnia confirm this). They also act very aggressively on fish and other aquatic vertebrates, causing changes in their behavior and leading to a decline in biological activity. Detergents and laundry detergents also carry a host of other harmful chemicals, such as parabens and phthalates. Don’t be fooled by catchy labels that declare eco-friendliness or biodegradability – it’s often mere fraud, green washing, or fake green marketing.

Therefore, remember – bathe in the lake, but wash on land. If you don’t have access to a shower or washroom and have no other choice, wash up and wash your dishes on land, at least 100 meters from the shore, pouring your waste there. They will be neutralized before they reach the lake. Those poured closer, sooner or later, will end up in the water anyway.

#5 Boat fuel and parking lot runoff, or oil pollution

Exhaust fumes and fuels contain harmful substances, the presence of which in water in above-normal concentrations can contribute to poor water chemistry. Fuel combustion emits relatively high concentrations of harmful substances for aquatic organisms, such as carbon monoxide, HC hydrocarbons and their derivatives, nitrogen oxide, sulfur oxides, lead and its compounds and other substances. Along with fuel spills, petroleum substances enter the waterways. But engines are also the agents used to maintain them, lubricants and commodities. Soaking them in water will certainly not improve their quality.

Vehicle traffic and the pollution it generates increase the risk of compounds and substances responsible for chemical exceedances in water and sediment. It is not only the products of fuel combustion, but also material from abrading tires, layers of bituminous pavement, brake discs or leaks of operating fluids that cause pollution, which, flushed by rainwater, finds its way into waterways with surface runoff and the sewer system. The same applies to substances used for winter road maintenance.

If you are already using a diesel-powered boat, always make sure that fuel does not get into the water. Refill the tank in a sheltered place, in the harbor, near the shore, at low tide, using a funnel and positioning the canister sideways to reduce splash. And best of all, consider buying an electric motor. If you are going to the water by car, park in a legal place as far from the shore as possible. Don’t drive close to the water. This not only destroys riparian vegetation and increases surface erosion, intensifying the runoff of matter into the waters, but also poses the risk of pollution from exhaust fumes and spills.

#6 Motor boats, or fun at the expense of ecosystem residents

Recent years have seen the development of motorboat tourism, which is beginning to dominate the previously more popular sailing and kayaking. Motor boats of various types affect aquatic ecosystems not only through exhaust fumes, evaporation, and fuel and operating material spills (#5), but also through generated noise and wave action.

The effects of noise are quite obvious – it’s mainly to frighten animals. But already the effects of excessive rippling are not so obvious. Increased water movement mechanically destroys coastal vegetation, both reed beds and underwater plants, such as the highly valuable ramshorn meadows. They also negatively impact the habitat of many littoral animals, such as macroinvertebrates, and fish spawning grounds. They also enhance the resuspension of sediments, contributing to an increase in water turbidity.

Before you fire up the engine in your motorboat, think about our smaller brothers and sisters, as well as other water users. For enthusiasts of faster swimming or in situations where it is warranted, we recommend electric motors.

#7 Garbage on the beach, or plastic in the water

Trash on the shore and in the water not only looks unsightly, but can also pose a threat to the inhabitants of the ecosystem. The problem is primarily plastic packaging, mainly plastic. Not only is their decomposition very slow (a commercial bag takes about 20 years to decompose, a plastic bottle 100 to 1,000 years), but harmful compounds are produced in the process, as well as micro- and nanoplastics that are dangerous to organisms. Such microparticles are eaten by aquatic animals and carried up the food chain, from where they can also enter the human body. This phenomenon is mainly observed for animals living in the seas and oceans, but it occurs no differently in inland waters.

Drifting in the water, the bags, so called. foils, can be ingested by animals, contributing to their death. This is especially common in sea turtles, which mistake them for jellyfish, but plastic is found in the digestive tracts of many species. When plastic fills their digestive tracts, birds or fish feel as if they are full. Meanwhile, they are slowly starving themselves to death. In other cases, eaten fragments of hard plastics injure and kill from the inside.

So always remember to dispose of your trash in the containers intended for it, preferably segregating it properly beforehand. If there are no proper bins at the place where you are camping (and there should be, if – as recommended by #1 – you are using organized sites), take your garbage with you and dispose of it where you can.

And remember, in the name of the noble idea of not leaving garbage in the woods and at the lake, never use a campfire as a disposal site. Burning materials not intended for it, such as barbecue trays, sausage wrappers, cigarette butts or beer cans, is a bomb of chemicals entering the atmosphere and, with the fallout, ending up in the soil and water. Trash must not only be burned in domestic stoves – campfires are subject to the same rules!

We wrote about the problem of trash in the waters, or what doesn’t live in the water, in an article in an earlier issue of Water Matters.

#8 Cigarette butts, or the periodic table

It may be surprising, but cigarette butts (popularly known as cigarette butts) are the most common form of litter. It is estimated that 4.5 trillion of them are thrown away worldwide each year. Some of it, unfortunately, goes directly into the environment. Many chemical products (pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, fungicides and rodenticides) are used during tobacco cultivation and cigarette production, residues of which may be found in cigarettes. Another more than 4,000 substances are produced in the process of cigarette production and tobacco combustion, including carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide, nitrogen oxides, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, ammonia, acetaldehyde, formaldehyde, benzene, phenol, argon, pyridines and acetone. Thus, such a cigarette is a real periodic table.

Studies of the toxic effects of cigarette butts on aquatic organisms (zooplankton and fish) are available, indicating that as little as less than one cigarette butt per liter of water can cause median lethal concentrations (LC50 – the concentration at which 50% of test individuals die), although in other cases these values have been reached at dozens of cigarette butts per liter.

Therefore, never throw cigarette butts into the water. Contrary to appearances, throwing kiepas into a bonfire is not at all a better solution. All the substances they contain will enter the atmosphere with the smoke, and with precipitation they will end up in the soil and water. If you are already smoking, collect the cigarette butts and dispose of them in a designated place, i.e. in the trash garbage can, from where they will be picked up and disposed of.

#9 Fishing baits, or miracle-whiskers

Fishing is a common form of recreation in Poland. There are more than 600,000 registered members of the Polish Angling Association. members, and the PZW is a user of 26% of the total lake area. Avid anglers appreciate the charms of this peaceful and seemingly completely harmless sport. The stick is soaking, peace, quiet, communing with nature. An activity that is commendable and worthy of recommendation, but provided that it is performed without excessive zeal.

The negative impact of angling on the aquatic ecosystem is expressed not only in the littering of the littoral, destruction (trampling) of shoreline and littoral habitats, but especially in the increased supply of nutrients caused by the use of bait. Fishing baits are a common method to facilitate fishing. As numerous reports have shown, the amount of bait used by anglers in a given reservoir can be measured in tons per year, and per angler the value is as high as 20-50 kg.

Material introduced in the form of groundbait is decomposed in the water, which accelerates the depletion of dissolved oxygen in the water and provides nutrients. The supply of nutrients is estimated at 156 grams of nitrogen and 28.8 grams of phosphorus introduced by one angler per day during the season. If the balance of biogens introduced into the aquatic environment by anglers in bait and removed in the biomass of caught fish is unfavorable, the fertility of the water increases and its quality deteriorates. Lack of control over the composition of the bait used also causes other strange substances to enter the water, such as attractants of undefined composition (including artificial flavors).

Although there is a growing awareness among anglers and water managers of the problem of the negative impact of groundbaits, it is still permitted, especially during competitions, to use them in significant quantities, amounting to several liters per turn per competitor, or even to allow their use without restriction. The seriousness of the problem has been recognized by the Polish Waters, introducing regulations and restrictions on the use of food bait when fishing. Therefore, if you are fishing for pleasure, avoid using groundbait, and you will not contribute to the increase of fertility and deterioration of water quality.

#10 Strange water sports, or water armageddon

And finally, a few more words about various modern recreational activities that have nothing to do with the wise use of nature, i.e. all kinds of quadding, wakeborading, diving and other forms of environmental devastation. Quad rallies on open terrain, off paved roads, cause ground breaking, destruction of vegetation cover and the formation of deep ruts, which can lead to irreversible changes in morphological structures and plant formations, including those along water banks.

Floating behind a speedboat on a jet ski or board requires considerable speed, which is certainly exciting, but contributes to large waves and generates noise. Noise frightens animals, mainly fish and birds, and increased wave action destroys submerged vegetation and rushes, increases sediment resuspension, and violates coastal habitats. The recently promoted diving, or seemingly innocent wading upstream in mountain streams, is destroying the bottom, plant and animal habitats, fish spawning grounds, scaring fish and plowing the substrate.

It has nothing to do with environmental action. We write more about such pseudo-ecological sports in this issue in the news. Their cultivation, yes, provides contact with nature and an unforgettable experience, but for the ecosystem it is a kind of armageddon. Before you become fascinated with one form of recreation or another, think about its impact on the ecosystem.

Man wants to use the environment, and this is hardly surprising. However, let’s do it wisely, sensibly and in moderation, so as not to harm this environment. It’s nice to commune with wildlife, but maybe sometimes, in the name of leaving it alone, we need to restrain our human appetites a bit. You can’t eat the cake and have the cake. Then concerned tourists will nod their heads in disapproval over the red maps of the state of thewaters ( we wroteabout the state of the waters in the previous issue of Water Matters), often without thinkingabout the fact that they themselves have contributed to this state.

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