PhD Nature Based Tourism

Nature based tourism in protected areas: tradeoffs and synergies among cultural ecosystem services

Stipendiat: Lorena Muñoz

This thesis addresses several important challenges accompanying increased nature-based tourism (NBT) activities in protected areas. The project will aim to answer the following questions:

  • What are the non-material natural benefits (cultural ecosystem services) valued by nature-based tourists and how are these preferences reflected by their use of the landscape?
  • How is the area-use of NBT conflicting with local and traditional use of the landscape?
  • What is the magnitude and character of NBT impact on ecological indicators compared to traditional and local use?
  • What tradeoffs and synergies poses NBT on ecosystem services?
Figure 1: Stepwise design to assess NBT impacts related to cultural ecosystem services.

Figure 1: Stepwise design to assess NBT impacts related to cultural ecosystem services.

This research is timely as the Norwegian government recently launched a pilot program that aims at increasing NBT and visitor management in Norwegian protected areas (Norwegian Ministry of Trade and Industry, 2012). Furthermore, the Norwegian government launched in 2004 the state-company Innovation Norway to market the country as a sustainable tourism destination and thus provide an alternative to support rural economies (Sørnes, 2010). Visitor numbers are increasing in Norway, both nationals and internationals (Farstad, Rideng, & Landa Mata, 2011; Norwegian Ministry of Trade and Industry, 2012). In this context, the study of visitor preferences, behavior and impacts with regard to the distribution and status of cultural ecosystem services is necessary.

This study will assess potential conflicts of different land users and NBT impacts related to cultural ecosystem service degradation (Figure 1).  The research will follow a bottom-up process (Brown & Weber, 2012; Cowling et al., 2008), incorporating users’ experiences and motivations to define non-material benefits that people obtain from nature.

Figure 2: Selected sites

Figure 2: Selected sites

Our study areas are located in arctic and alpine tundra regions in Norway that correspond to the vegetation zones as defined by Metzger, Bunce, Jongman, Mücher, and Watkins (2005). Three areas (Varanger peninsula, Saltfjellet-Svartisen National Park and Jotunheimen National Park) have been selected for the PhD project based on the degree of tourism and traditional uses (Figure 2).

The PhD will be divided into three steps that will complement each other:

Step 1. How do nature-based experience values influence visitor behavior?

The first step will disentangle how the motivations of tourists result in different landscape use patterns. The aim is to find the reasons for the visitors’ spatial behavior. GPS tracking of tourists will be combines with visitor surveys in order to acquire the necessary information. This study will be started in Varanger in 2014 to identify and assess sampling chalenges that might be encountered later on the project.  This study will be conducted in the three selected areas to compare varying degrees of use.

Step 2. How could NBT conflict with local land uses?

Scandinavia is different from other countries in Europe since it has the Right of Public Access, which means that land can be freely used if not causing harm to the environment or the landowners’ property. In addition, the lack of zoning or facilities that channel visitors to the appropriate locations may create conflicts between tourists and locals. Thus, surveys will be used to spatially model the most important areas for tourists and this will be compared with PPGIS data gathered in CultEs. A spatial comparison will provide us with insights on differences on land use and potential conflicts.

Step 3. How could an increase in NBT change tradeoffs and synergies among ecosystem services?

The aim of this step is (1) to identify type of impacts caused by NBT, (2) to assess the relationship between ground indicators and remote sensing, and (3) to explore the advantages and limitations of using different resolution images for NBT impact assessment. This study will only be conducted in Varanger due to the high labor intensity this step demands. Visitor counts and NBT use maps (obtained in the first step) will be used to identify areas with varying tourism visitation. Sampling areas will be designated where ground ecological indicators and remote sensing will be used to assess NBT impacts, tradeoffs and synergies on non-material nature benefits that visitors obtain.

NBT: Naure based tourism
GPS: Geographic positioning system.
PPGIS: Public participatory geographic information system.
Brown, G., & Weber, D. (2012). A place-based approach to conservation management using public participation GIS (PPGIS). Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, 56(4), 455-473. doi: 10.1080/09640568.2012.685628
Cowling, R. M., Egoh, B., Knight, A. T., O’Farrell, P. J., Reyers, B., Rouget, M., . . . Wilhelm-Rechman, A. (2008). An operational model for mainstreaming ecosystem services for implementation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 105(28), 9483-9488. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0706559105
Farstad, E., Rideng, A., & Landa Mata, I. (2011). Summary: Norwegian Foreing Visitor Survey 2011. Oslo: Institute of Transport Economics. Norwegian Centre for Transport Research.
Metzger, M. J., Bunce, R. G. H., Jongman, R. H. G., Mücher, C. A., & Watkins, J. W. (2005). A climatic stratification of the environment of Europe. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 14(6), 549-563. doi: 10.1111/j.1466-822X.2005.00190.x
Norwegian Ministry of Trade and Industry. (2012). Destination Norway. National strategy for the tourism industry. Ministry of Trade and Industry.
Sørnes, I. (2010). How could LT&C be applied in Norway? Innovation Norway travel and tourism. Paper presented at the LT&C Seminar, Arendal, Norway.