A Manual on Computing Carrying Capacity of Ecotourism Sites in Protected Areas
After more than five years of implementing carrying capacity (CARCAP) studies in different parts of the country, particularly in Community-Based Forest Management (CBFM) project sites, protected areas (PA) and small islands, the CARCAP team thought that it is about time that the Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau (ERDB) publish a manual on the step-by-step approach in computing for carrying capacity.
This manual focuses on computing CARCAP (i.e., allowable number of visitors and tourists) for ecotourism sites in PAs and utilized two simple and easy-to-apply models: the Boullon’s CARCAP mathematical model (1985), and the Limits of Acceptable Change (LAC). Remember, there are many other ways to compute CARCAP for different intent and purposes (social, physical, ecological, etc.), and they can be undertaken simultaneously, separately or successively depending on the need of a site.
Therefore, this publication will help guide planning for and developing ecotourism projects, particularly in formulating ecotourism management plans. This will serve as an important input in the design of visitor management scheme, specifically in the context of knowing how many visitors or tourists can be allowed to do particular activities in a site.
To make this manual more effective and useful, several reminders must be considered by the readers and would-be users:
1. Formal training on tourism carrying capacity is necessary before applying this on the field. It is of utmost importance that the specific method and approaches are fully understood and well appreciated. For instance, in determining the standard requirements of visitors and in identifying the limiting factors, a more exhaustive and in-depth analysis must be undertaken. If possible, the factors should include all aspects that influence the use of a particular area or space, activities, and services in an ecotourism destination. More importantly, environmental factors like the area designated as habitat of biodiversity-significant species, mating season of important birds, nesting area of marine turtle, spawning grounds of maliputo (an endangered species in Taal Volcano Protected Landscape), and many others should be incorporated in the mathematical computation of CARCAP.
2. It is also important to note that computation of CARCAP should be a continuing and regular process because standard requirements and limiting factors, as well as products, services and activities in ecotourism sites change every now and then. Hence, re-computing CARCAP is a must once changes in any of the above conditions occur.
3. All these methods and approaches can be learned and mastered only after continuous practice and application of the CARCAP models on the ground. The methods and procedures cannot be learned overnight; it requires thorough understanding, appreciation and commitment.
4. Related studies should be undertaken to support the CARCAP set for an ecotourism site. For instance, if a defined number of snorkelers is allowed in a coral area, an accompanying research that can be done is determining the impact (or level of disturbance) brought about by this number of snorkelers on the corals. Knowledge of this will certainly help adjust the CARCAP established for the site.
We hope that through this manual, the readers and end-users will be encouraged to engage in biodiversity conservation and PA management in the country.