Back to Nature

People are still flocking to natural areas. Just not in the U.S.

The idea that people are becoming increasingly less interested in nature has become a familiar lament. But how does it jibe with reports that the popularity of ecotourism and other forms of natural recreation is growing?

To unravel this contradiction, a research team led by the University of Cambridge’s Andrew Balmford reviewed visitation records for 280 protected areas in 20 countries. Previous studies on the U.S. and Japan found that nature-based recreation was declining. Balmford’s team found that these countries are the exception, not the rule.

Between 1992 and 2006, visits to protected areas increased in 15 of the countries studied. Interestingly, there was a negative correlation between visitation rates and GDP—on a relative basis, natural areas in poor countries receive more visits than those in rich ones.
The researchers take these findings as a hopeful sign, arguing that they provide further evidence that nature-based tourism can help promote conservation and protect biodiversity.  ❧

—Justin Matlick

Balmford A. et al. 2009. A global perspective on trends in nature-based tourism. PloS Biology. DOI:10.1371/journal.pbio.1000144.

Photo: ©RTimages/


1 Comment

  • IVAR KALLEBERG January 21, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    The Silent Forest

    I heard no lonesome whippoorwill
    Just cars and planes and trains
    Endangered species may die out
    In forest, parks and plains
    I did not hear no robin weep
    Is this the silent spring?
    Has our pollution killed most birds?
    Since we don’t hear them sing?

    The hills and dales in our lush state
    Gave homes to hawks and jays
    The silence in our forests now
    Could mean that all decays
    We never see no whippoorwill
    Against the smog filled sky
    With ozone layers full of holes
    Our planet starts to die

    The pandas and the rhinos may
    Be gone in fifty years
    Our dying forests way up north
    May host no grizzly bears
    The elephants and chimpanzees
    Survive in zoos and parks
    If we don’t save our wildlife soon
    They’ll need some Noah’s Arks


Leave a Comment