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Keywords:

  • Sustainable development;
  • tourism;
  • environmental impacts;
  • eutrophication;
  • sediment

Abstract

Although modern mass tourism in China has a history of only about 30 years, the market has expanded quickly. Endowed with the spectacular scenery of turquoise water lakes and marvelous waterfalls, Jiuzhaigou is one of the most visited tourist destinations in China. Between 1984 and 2012, the region witnessed a tourism growth of 130 times, resulting in extreme economic and environmental impacts. The fast increasing and large tourist population in the limited area has caused many changes in the local environment, including: increasing algae in water, increasing nutrients in water, increasing sediment in lakes, degrading travertine, and increasing threat on biodiversity. These changes will threaten the sustainability of tourism in Jiuzhaigou. Carrying capacity represented by daily visitor numbers theoretically has been used to control the number of tourists but has proved not useful in practical management. Efforts have been made to reduce the environmental impacts of the increasing number of tourists, but environmental degradation continues to develop as the number of tourists is not controlled. The sustainability issue in Jiuzhaigou is mired in the conflict between the conservation of the natural beauty and local economic development. To promote sustainable tourism, the number of tourists must be controlled. A daily numeric limit, based on adequate environmental monitoring and well-designed scientific research, will help determine the daily number of visitors in Jiuzhaigou.