Carrying Capacity in Protected Areas
Under the framework of BIO2CARE project, a web tool for the estimation of the environmental status of a protected area has been developed.
- Carrying Capacity (CC),
- Ecological Footprint (EF),
- Carbon Footprint (CF)
In modern ecology, carrying capacity is the number of people, animals, or crops which a region can support without environmental degradation. In the case of protected areas, the Carrying Capacity can be understood as the maximum number of persons (both visitors and residents) that the protected area can sustain without permanent damage to the productivity of the environment and without considerably diminishing the capacity of future generations to meet their needs.
In order to estimate the carrying capacity and further assess the sustainability of a protected area it is necessary to extract the following two footprints:
- The Ecological Footprint is the amount of theoretical land (expressed in hectares – Gha) that is needed for a population to produce in a sustainable way all the natural resources it consumes and assimilate the waste it produces. The EF calculation method is necessary to convert the energy and food consumption needs in land requirements in order to compare them with the Biocapacity of the examined system (actual production from available lands) and thus find the CC of the area.
- The Carbon Footprint is the quantity of greenhouse gases (expressed in tones of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions – tons CO2) emitted to the atmosphere by the examined system. It can be considered a sub-indicator of the EF, but it is essential to quantify and assess it on its own, since it provides a much clearer image of Global Warming Potential and Climate Change impacts.