Land potential for ecotourism development and assessing landscape ecology in areas on protection of Iran
Environment, Development and Sustainability
In Protected Areas (PAs), zones of ecotourism development need to be carefully chosen to minimize environmental impacts and maximize socio-economic outcomes. The excessive growth of ecotourism in PAs and insufficient monitoring have caused a decrease in ecological connectivity (EC) and unsustainability in these areas. This research has evaluated environmental potential to determine suitable zones for ecotourism development in Lar National Park (NP) and Kavdeh Wildlife Refuge (WR) and also evaluated landscape ecology changes to investigate ecological function (EF) and status of EC in these areas. To achieve this purpose, environmental potential and landscape ecology changes have been examined, using multi-criteria decision analysis (MCDA) model and fuzzy set theoretic approach, as well as mathematical modeling. Our mixed-method approach allowed us to identify and prepare map zones with moderate to high potential for intensive and extensive recreational development in Kavdeh. Conversely, because of the high ecological sensitivity and restrictions for human activity, Lar was not deemed suitable for ecotourism development. In addition, the landscape ecology assessment raised concerns about the increasing human activities and ecotourism development in the study areas, impacting ecological function and connectivity. Accordingly, the results demonstrated that in Lar and Kavdeh Ecological Connectivity Index (ECI) has the highest decreasing trend. The findings of this study can be used as a blueprint for modeling land potential for sustainable ecotourism development in PAs with similar geographical conditions. These findings can also help policymakers and planners to prevent habitat fragmentation and protect landscape ecology.
Open Access Status
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