Monday 5
Thinking protected areas as social-ecological systems
Raphael Mathevet
› 11:00 - 18:00 (7h)
› Centre du Scamandre Vauvert
Spatial influences on the economic viability of South African National Parks
Alta De Vos  1@  , Graeme Cumming  2@  
1 : University of Cape Town  (UCT)  -  Website
Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology University of Cape Town Rondebosch 7701 Cape Town South Africa -  Afrique du Sud
2 : University of Cape Town  (UCT)
Cape Town -  Afrique du Sud

To achieve environmental sustainability (MDG 7) we need resilient protected areas that can be justified in terms of the services they provide to society. However, due in part to the difficulty in quantifying these benefits, and in part to the complex nature of the “production chain” from nature to consumers, cultural ecosystem services, in particular, have proved very challenging to appraise.

Protected areas offer an interesting and tractable case study for understanding the economic sustainability of cultural service provision. They offer cultural services that may have a high economic value, with people travelling great distances at considerable cost to experience them.

Cultural service provision by protected areas can be considered in terms of two main aspects: (1) the quality of the experience that is on offer (i.e., the value of the cultural service, as determined by the ecosystem and local facilities, such as accommodation and restaurants); and (2) the ability of the potential consumer to obtain the service (i.e., in terms of consumer wealth, the affordability of the experience, and its accessibility).

Plausibly, the location and spatial character of an experience on offer may hold important bearing on how likely it is to be experienced. Aside from some general theorising, there has been relatively little empirical research on the relevance of spatial variation for economic elements of social-ecological interactions.

In this study we investigate the relationship between the quality of a protected area's experiences and the income obtained from it, specifically focusing on the question of how this is influenced by spatial relationships and location.

We analyse a five-year monthly data set (2007-2012) of tourist numbers, tourism-derived income, and tourist characteristics (e.g., foreign vs local) in all camps in South African National Parks, in relation to a set of largely GIS-derived attributes that capture key elements of location (e.g., location on road networks, proximity to airports and major urban centres, proximity to the coast), local biodiversity (e.g., mammal species lists, land cover types, vegetation data), infrastructure (e.g. facilities). We interrogate the models to determine which variables (and which covariance terms) appear to be the most important influences on tourist numbers and total income. We then use the best-fitting model to predict tourist visitation rates at different camps and explore the residuals. Overall, our results show that ecological features explain 24% in visitor data between parks, location 7%, time, 1% and the interaction between ecological and location, 13%.

Our results highlight the importance of spatial variation on the economics of protected areas and its implications for their resilience . More broadly, our study demonstrates a quantitative and practical approach to investigating cultural service provision and consumption in social-ecological systems.


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