Carrying capacity, in the context of sustainability, is the size of the population that can be supported indefinitely upon the available resources and services of supporting natural, social, human, and built capital. Together, these types of capital are referred to as community capital. All four types of capital are necessary for communities to function. All four types of capital need to be managed by a community. All four types of capital need to be cared for, nurtured and improved over time. A community that is living off the interest of its community capital is living within the carrying capacity.
A study for the assessment of the carrying capacity in the Municipality of Amyntaio was developed within LIFE AMYBEAR project (Action A5), towards the achievement of the project’s main objective, the improvement of Ursus Arctos global conservation status by achieving a sustainable management of human-bear co-existence through minimization of bear-human negative interference. The study, through the identification of the natural, social, human and built capital of the area and based on a method which defines the maximum number of visitors that the area of Amyntaio can accept, calculates the carrying capacity of the Municipality of Amyntaio for both the protection and conservation of the brown bear habitat and the sustainable development of the area through the promotion of ecotourism.
Specifically, the methodology used for the calculation of the carrying capacity specifies:
- the Physical Carrying Capacity (PCC) : Maximum number of tourists who can physically fit into a specific area over a given time
- the Real Carrying Capacity (RCC): Maximum permissible number of visits to a specific site, which is calculated according to the limiting factors resulting from specific conditions of that place and influence of these factors on the physical carrying capacity
- the Effective or Permissible Carrying Capacity (ECC): is the maximum number of visits that a site can sustain considering the RCC and the management capacity*
The calculation of the ECC in the Municipality of Amyntaio concerns two (2) sub-areas which were identified through the study as areas with great opportunities for ecotourism development based, among others, to the promotion of the human-bear co-existence and the increase of the community and visitors’ tolerance and awareness regarding their co-existence with the brown bear.
Map: Sub-areas S1 and S2
The main features of the identified areas are:
Sub-area 1 (S1): Amyntaio – Vegoritida and Petron Lakes
Area: 236,4 km2
Local Communities: 7
Population density: 33/ km2
Bed-places in accommodation facilities: 61
Cultural Assets: Prehistoric Cemetery in Agios Panteleimonas, Petron Hellenistic City, ruins of the three-aisled basilica church at “Kale” Fort, antiquities in the area of Kleidi, Post Byzantine Church of Agios Nikolaos Petron, Folklore Museum of Amyntaio
Natural Assets: Vegoritida and Petron Lakes, brown bear habitat, Natura 2000 protected area
Ecotourism facilities and activities: E4 European long distance path, hiking, bird-watching, environmental education activities, Information Center in Agios Panteleimonas, wineries, Wine Roads of Northern Greece, guest houses, traditional cuisine
Main economic activities: agriculture, farming, viticulture, fishing, trade, recreation
Sub-area 2 (S2): Nymfaio – Cheimaditida and Zazari Lakes
Area: 151,4 km2
Local Communities: 8
Population density: 23/ km2
Bed-places in accommodation facilities: 138
Cultural Assets: Tradiational Settlement of Nymfaio
Natural Assets: Cheimaditida and Zazari Lakes, Natura 2000 protected areas, Verno (Vitsi) Mountain
Ecotourism facilities and activities: E4 European long distance path, guided tours, hiking, climbing, bird-watching, horse-riding, cycling, Environmental Centre ARCTUROS, ARTEMIS Center for Environmental Tours and Outdoor Activities, hotels, guest houses, traditional cuisine
Main economic activities: agriculture, farming, fishing, tourism, trade, recreation
In order all the above mentioned features of sub-areas S1 and S2 to be identified, local businessmen (ARTEMIS Center for Environmental Tours and Outdoor Activities, hotels and guest houses) and the Municipality of Amyntaio staff members were interviewed, as there is no organised structure that accurately records the community capital. Other data regarding visits were also collected, such as data from the Hellenic Statistics Authority, form local wineries and the ARKTOUROS Bear and Wolf Sanctuary. Based on these data, the maximum number of visits that sub-areas S1 and S2 can currently sustain and manage (Effective Carrying Capacity) was estimated at 70.000 visitors annually, while the maximum number of visitors that the area can sustain and manage with the implementation of a tourism management plan and a variety of actions to promote ecotourism was defined at 116.000 visitors annually.
For the sustainable development of the Municipality of Amyntaio, the study identified main activities and actions that have to be implemented for the successful management of the sub-areas S1 and S2 an in order its community to live within the carrying capacity. These actions and activities were rated and prioritised regarding their impact to local economy, environment and community in both sub-areas. A Strategic Local Plan was developed describing in detail the actions that have to be implemented and are summarised as follows:
- Development of new tourism activities in traditional buildings (where possisble) related to the ecosystems of the area (Lakes, mountains), to culture, winemaking, folk art and tradition and local gastronomy
- Development of agrotourism infrastructure (thematic sites)
- Public infrastructure for the promotion of Rural Tourism
- Creation of a local businesses network with similar or/and complementary activities
- New businesses and/or modernisation of existing ones in the catering sector (restaurants, cafes)
- New accommodation infrastructure and facilities (preferably) in traditional buildings and modernization of existing ones (hostels, guest houses, hotels)
- Promotion of agrotourism product
Map: Current activities in sub-areas S1 and S2 and proposed thematic paths
* Management Capacity: the possibilities the administrators of an area have in order to develop activities and be able to reach the objectives of the management plan (if any). For the estimation of the management capacity variables such as legal frame, policies, equipment, competence of the staff, funding, infrastructure, and existing facilities are included. The variables considered for each study are selected based on the priorities of the management plans.
Journal of Tourism & Hospitality: https://www.omicsonline.org/
TOURISM RESEARCH INSTITUTE: http://www.jotr.eu/