Parks and protected areas represent about 10 percent of the world’s land base. Although conservation biologists estimate at least 20 percent is needed to preserve biological diversity, there are significant challenges to conserving and protecting the areas that are already legally designated. PPGIS may assist managers in prioritizing and targeting scarce management resources to park areas that either contribute significantly to the visitor experience or that have significant environmental impact.
Many parks and protected areas (PAP) have dual and conflicting mandates of protecting and conserving the natural systems while providing for the enjoyment and appreciation of visitors. Can PPGIS assist PAP managers with decisions that both enhance visitor experiences while protecting ecological systems? We think so. The Landscape Values Institute is assisting Parks Victoria (Australia) in their planning process for national parks located in the “high country” or Alpine region of Victoria by collecting information about visitor experiences and perceived environmental impacts. We posit there is a relationship between the location of certain visitor experiences and perceived environmental impacts but this relationship has yet to be formally explored in a PPGIS study. By tapping the extensive knowledge of park visitors, managers can target their park management resources to specific park locations and visitor nodes to achieve the greatest management impact. Data collection for the Parks Victoria project began in January 2009 and is expected to be completed by the end of April 2009.