Given that recreation ecology is an emerging field of study, the journals that we publish in – while good and important journals – do not usually have the highest impact factor or are the most widely read. However, that may be changing! My advisor, Chris Monz and two Australian colleagues, authored the cover article of this month’s issue of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. The October 2013 issue also features a Guest Editorial by another well-known recreation ecologist out of Australia – Ralf Buckley. Frontiers is a journal published by the Ecological Society of America and hopefully the October issue, which puts recreation ecology in the spotlight, will be just the first step in introducing recreation ecology research to a broader scientific audience.
In a previous post, I mention that recreation ecology only has one concept that we can even venture to call a “theory”; the use-impact relationship. Generally, we assume that the relationship between recreation use and ecological impact is “curvilinear” – meaning that the most impact will occur with initial use. The use-impact relationship has guided many management decisions. In their paper, Monz and his colleagues point out that this relationship was derived from a single ecological response to recreation: vegetation cover loss. The field of recreation ecology is filled with trampling studies that have supported the use-impact relationship but, obviously, basing a field’s main generalization on only one ecological scenario may be an oversimplification of how systems actually respond to recreation.
Monz et al. suggest various hypothetical response curves for the spectrum of recreation impacts including wildlife, soil, and water. Their hypothetical curves are founded in recent recreation ecology findings but point out that more research is needed to support these new generalizations. Overall, the message of the paper is that recreation ecology could benefit from additional experimental studies examining the response of ecosystem metrics to recreation. From a management perspective, recreation management decisions should not be based solely on the idea that impacts always follow a curvilinear response as this may be a oversimplication. The field of recreation ecology has much room to grow and evolve and as a “young” field of inquiry it is important that we continue to broaden our research interests.
Christopher A. Monz, Catherine M. Pickering, & Wade L. Hadwen (2013). Recent advances in recreation ecology and the implications of different relationships between recreation use and ecological impacts Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment (8) DOI: 10.1890/120358