A Review and Synthesis of Recreation Ecology Research Supporting Carrying Capacity and Visitor Use Management Decisionmaking
Management and Policy Implications: Wildland managers struggle to balance their resource protection and recreation provision objectives. Over the course of six decades, the recreation carrying capacity concept has been repeatedly applied and revised as a management tool, evolving from a simplistic focus on fixed visitation limits to comprehensive decisionmaking frameworks focused on sustaining high-quality recreational opportunities. Recreation ecology studies investigating relationships between amount of visitor use and the magnitude of resource impacts consistently find that use and impact are strongly related only at initial and low levels of visitation, with weak correlations at higher use levels. However, unacceptable resource impacts often occur on well-established and heavily used trails and recreation sites: reducing use to improve their condition is generally an ineffective practice. An increasing number of recreation ecology studies describe the efficacy of alternative management interventions, including the siting, design, construction, and maintenance of more sustainable trails and recreation sites, the spatial and temporal redistribution of visitor use, and persuasive communication or regulations that encourage visitors to apply low-impact practices.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: 01 May 2016
This article was made available online on 17 March 2016 as a Fast Track article with title: "A Review and Synthesis of Recreation Ecology Research Supporting Carrying Capacity and Visitor Use Management Decisionmaking ".