Conceptual frameworks which have seen man and nature as being an integrated whole were widespread before they became suppressed by developments within both capitalism and socialism. Therefore an idealistic use of such concepts in scientific work has often had limited practical value. At the same time, the practice behind such conceptual frameworks has survived in many land use systems, being a fundamental source of inspiration for the modern challenge of landscape sustainability. Here, the concept and practice of carrying capacity is used as an example. We provide a modern interpretation and relate it to an empirical study of sustainable tourism in eight protected areas and their regions in the Baltic. They are subject to large differences in human pressure. The political commitment to the related EU Natura 2000 networks has been taken as our point of departure for a more detailed analysis of accessibility and its related conflicts, and opportunities for a sustainable development of tourism in and around the protected areas. It is concluded that the concept of carrying capacity cannot meaningfully be used for sustainability studies at an abstract conceptual level, but proves its relevance through a detailed context specific analyses of visitor related conflicts.
Landscape Ecology, 2013, Vol 28, Issue 6, p. 1125-1137
Protected areas; Natura2000; visitor carrying capacity; sustainable landscapes; European Landscape Convention; sustainable regional development; case studies