January 25, 2013
Tourism May Increase Ecosystem Services
A new article in Landscape and Urban Planning demonstrates that tourism can play a strong role in shaping landscape, indeed more so than local residents might realize. What I find interesting about the study is that it also shows conversion of land from agriculture to tourism resulting in an increase in economic benefit and ecosystem services. It may be hard to apply these findings outside of the Italian Island where the research was conducted, but the lessons about perceptions and planning models extend elsewhere.
Roberta Aretano, Irene Petrosillo, Nicola Zaccarelli, Teodoro Semeraro, Giovanni Zurlini, People Perception of Landscape Change Effects on Ecosystem Services in Small Mediterranean Islands: A Combination of Subjective and Objective Assessments, 112 Landscape and Urban Planning 63 (2013).
ABSTRACT: Humans constantly modify their environment to better fit their needs. These changes are even more important in small Mediterranean islands, where the flow and type of ecosystem services (ES) is constrained by insularity and heavily exploited by economic activities. We evaluated the dynamics of ES from 1954 to 2007 linked to the changes of the landscape of the Vulcano Island (southern Italy) and related such transformation to the perception of the local communities. We estimated the changes in the total economic value of ES and we coupled this objective assessment with a survey among inhabitants to measure the perception of driving forces and ES. The results show that agriculture was replaced by tourism, which simultaneously has profoundly affected the landscape and brought economic benefits to local population. Despite the urban-sprawl related to tourism development there is an increase of the flow of ES over time because of the conversion of some land-cover classes into others that provide a greater amount of ES. Local communities are aware of landscape and ES dynamics, but they do not perceive tourism as a driving force, which affects the natural attractiveness and cultural identity of their island. This approach integrates a commonly accepted objective technique to assign value to ES, with a subjective assessment taking into account how local people value the flow of ES. Effective strategies for ES management and governance need to address and incorporate local population expectations so to empower local stakeholders in the achievement of higher level of quality of life.
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