1 Environmental Dynamics, Department of Science and Environment, Roskilde University2 The Department of Environmental, Social and Spatial Change, Roskilde University3 Department of Science and Environment, Roskilde University
Growth in the number of visitors is an upcoming problem in nature parks. Nature parks are at the same time facing increasing demand, falling public appropriations and receding focus on their conservation functions. To ensure a balancing of nature protection and economic utilization the concept of carrying capacity has received increasing attention among park-authorities all over the world. A comparative analysis of conditions and initiatives related to visitor/nature carrying capacities in 8 nature parks in the Baltic region has been carried out. All the parks are candidates for recognition as Charter Parks within the European Charter for sustainable tourism in Protected Areas developed by the EUROPARC Federation. Due to the strong political commitments related to European nature protection goals attached to the Natura2000 program, Natura2000 sites overlapping the nature parks have been taken as a departure for the comparison of the protectional conditions for the parks. Many other aspects of the nature and social carrying capacities however also constitute important conditions for the park management. Increasing emphasis on visitor experience is not only a challenge for the nature protection, it also offers opportunities for the development of a sustainable regional strategy. Here experience with carrying capacity and a balanced land use and regulation within the park can work as a model for a sustainable regional development through an improved landscape and land use design. A one-dimensional focus on nature protection tends to link the park management primarily to protected areas ('A-nature') in contradiction to lower prioritized nature in the park ('development zone') as well as in the surrounding region, the so-called 'B-nature', loosing political attention by the establishment of national and nature parks. Nature parks should rather develop towards a status as 'Biosphere Reserves' representing models for regional development, land use and landscape design in general. A relevant zoning of the regional environment of the Parks will be included as an instrument for such a strategy.