What Is Recreation Ecology

Recreation ecology is a rather new field of study that has to do with the impact of recreational activities on the natural environment, specifically the protected natural areas. Others have also defined it as “the reciprocal ecological influences and interactions between human and the environment in recreation contexts.”

So basically, this scientific research area aims to explain how recreation and tourism activities affect or are affected by the surrounding environment. As such, recreation ecology is linked to several other disciplines like geography, human ecology, and environmental psychology.

The increase in outdoor activities affected the environment

All over the world, people love to go on holiday and many of them seize the opportunity to visit new places, explore nature and discover wilderness. This kind of tourism or leisure activity has begun to soar in the 1970s, when more and more people took to visitation to the outdoors as a regular activity, especially on off days or on holiday. As a result, national parks, protected areas and even wild spots in nature started to show some anthropogenic disturbances that led to environmental impacts.

The very first studies regarding humans’ impact on the environment date back to the 1920s, but recreation ecology as a fully-fledged scientific research field only started to shape up in early 1960s, when concerns were first raised about the impacts of outdoor recreation and tourism activities on natural environments.

Sustainable site management is key

Researchers in this field of study focus on monitoring and assessing the biophysical changes caused by recreation activities in order to identify the factors that cause these changes and take steps to minimize them. For this, soil, water, vegetation, wildlife and microbes on trails, parks, and campsites and other such outdoor areas are examined, and study results are brought to the attention of site management in order to be taken into account when making management decisions.

In other words, researchers want to find a way to manage recreation and tourism activities in protected areas in a sustainable way. Visitor management strategies are outlined to minimize recreation impacts in parks, wilderness and protected areas.

Among the most important themes in recreation ecology, it’s essential to mention use-impact relationships, monitoring techniques, environmental resistance and resilience, and management strategies.

Ties to other sciences

As mentioned above, recreation ecology has ties to other sciences and disciplines, and one of the most important is geography as geographers greatly contributed to this new field of study with their research methods which seem particularly useful. Some of them include understanding variations of site susceptibility, analyzing impact distribution in a certain area, and taking social and ecological concerns into account when developing management programs.

A fresh series of recreation ecology studies has been prompted by the recent growth of ecotourism in developing countries, as there are concerns that ecotourism is not actually so sustainable as some may think and could cause huge impacts on fragile ecosystems.