Degradation of a protected mountain area by tourist traffic: case study of the Tatra National Park, Poland Degradation of a protected mountain area by tourist traffic: case study of the Tatra National Park, Poland

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Vol18 No.10:2503-2519

Title】Degradation of a protected mountain area by tourist traffic: case study of the Tatra National Park, Poland

Author】Joanna FIDELUS-ORZECHOWSKA1*; Elżbieta GORCZYCA2; Marcin BUKOWSKI3; Kazimierz KRZEMIEŃ2

Addresses】1 Institute of Geography, Pedagogical University of Krakow, Podchorążych 2, 30-084 Krakow, Poland; 2 Institute of Geography and Spatial Management, Jagiellonian University, Gronostajowa 7, 30-387 Krakow, Poland; 3 Tatra National Park, Kuźnice 1, 34-500 Zakopane, Poland

Corresponding author】Joanna FIDELUS-ORZECHOWSKA

Citation】Fidelus-Orzechowska J, Gorczyca E, Bukowski M, Krzemień K (2021) Degradation of a protected mountain area by tourist traffic: case study of the Tatra National Park, Poland. Journal of Mountain Science 18(10). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11629-020-6611-4

DOI】https://doi.org/10.1007/s11629-020-6611-4

Abstract】Mountain protected areas are characterized by high biodiversity, which makes it a great challenge for managers to maintain a balance between their use and the stability of natural ecosystems. Maintaining that balance is particularly difficult in areas with high tourism pressure. The expected volume of tourist traffic should be considered at the planning stage of the tourist infrastructure development process.Insufficient capacity of tourist infrastructure can lead to environmental degradation, which is hard, or at times impossible, to repair. In our research, we identified patterns of tourist footpath and road functioning in an environmentally protected area with high volumes of tourist traffic. Data from geomorphologic mapping was analyzed in order to identify tourist footpath and road structuresin the Tatra National Park (TNP). Fieldwork was conducted in several stages between 1995 and 2019. Orthophotomaps from the years 1977, 2009, 2017 and 2019 were used to identify and compare degraded zones along selected tourist footpaths. Degraded zones were defined as areas surrounding a footpath or tourist road with a mean width larger than or equal to 10 meters, with heavily damaged or completely removed vegetation and exposed, weathered cover, where geomorphic processes that would not take place under normal conditions are readily observable. The examined tourist footpaths and roads vary in terms of their morphometric parameters. Research has shown important differences between mean and maximum footpath width as well as maximum incision depth for the forest zone versus the subalpine and alpine zones. A lack of differences in these parameters was noted between the alpine and subalpine zones. Research has shown that an increase in the surface area of degraded zones found adjacent to tourist footpaths occurred in all the studied geo-ecological zones in the study period. However, the largest increase occurred atop wide ridgelines found in the alpine zone. Degraded zones may be an indication of exceeding the tourist carrying capacity of a mountain tourist area. Mass tourism in TNP contributes to the formation of degraded zones adjacent to footpaths, whose continuous evolution may lead to irreversible changes in local relief.

Keywords】Tourist traffic; Degraded zones; Mountain area; Morphogenetic processes; Carrying capacity