Research on environmental impacts of tourism in China: Progress and prospect

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    tourism carrying capacity, environmental quality assessment, and measures for the protection and

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    Chinese researchers in tourism-related elds.The emergence of research on the environmental impacts of

    tourism in China is reective of the increasing concerns over thenegative tourism impacts on the environment as a result of rapid

    was criticized in 1998 by theWorld Heritage Committee of UNESCObecause of the increasing urbanization and degrading environ-mental quality arising from uncontrolled tourism development(Quan, 2003). These tourism-related environmental problems notonly negatively affected the image of a tourist destination, but thesustainable development of the local tourism industry.

    In recognition of the increasing importance of developingtourism as a means for economic promotion and growth in China,

    * Corresponding author. Tel.: 86 10 64889033; fax: 86 10 64851844.E-mail addresses: (L. Zhong),

    Contents lists availab

    Journal of Environm


    Journal of Environmental Management 92 (2011) 2972e2983(J. Deng).that it not only creates positive impacts (i.e., creation of jobs andenhancement of image), but also causes negative ones on thebiophysical environment (i.e., water pollution, air pollution,ecosystem degradation) and social/cultural environment (i.e., lossof the traditional culture), if not well planned, developed, andmanaged. Therefore, it deems necessary to monitor and examinetourism impacts on the environment. Indeed, the environmentalimpacts of tourism have been extensively investigated in somedeveloped countries (i.e., Australia, the USA, the UK) (Pickering andHill, 2007) and some developing countries (i.e., India and Nepal)and have also emerged recently as a hot research topic among

    times as much as that for the year of 1978. In addition, Chinaaccommodated 1.9 billion domestic tourists in 2009, an increase of4.6 times against the year of 1993, with domestic tourism revenueof US145.5 billion, an increase of 11.8 times over the year of 1993(National Tourism Administration of China, 2009).

    Concomitantwith the rapid development of the tourism industryare increasing environmental problems, such as increasing noise,declining air quality, increasing water pollution, and increasingbiodiversity loss (Jiang et al., 1996; Xie and Zheng, 2001; Lv, 2003;Wen et al., 2003; Li, 2004). For example, Wulingyuan Scenic Area,a World Natural Heritage Site in Zhangjiajie City of Hunan Province,ImpactProgressProspectChina

    1. Introduction

    Tourism development is largely desocial/cultural environments. Thus,enhance the quality of the tourism eHowever, tourism development is of0301-4797/$ e see front matter 2011 Published bydoi:10.1016/j.jenvman.2011.07.011cumulative impacts on the tourism environment; examination of the quantitative relationship betweenthe impact and the level of tourism use for different activities; development of methods to estimate thecarrying capacity; and understanding of positive impacts of tourism.

    2011 Published by Elsevier Ltd.

    nt upon the natural andssential to maintain orment for a destination.ouble-edged sword, in

    tourism development since 1978 when China began to adopt anopen-door policy and make major economic reforms, resulting inimpressive economic development in the following decades. In2009, the number of China inbound tourists reached 126.5 million,70.3 times more than that for the year of 1978, with the totalforeign exchange earnings of US$39.7 billion, which was 152.4TourismEnvironmentqualitative and descriptive in nature, and there was a lack of case studies and theoretical development.Future research should focus on the evaluation of environmental impacts, particularly those gradualKeywords:management of tourism resources was reviewed. The review found that the majority of research wasReview

    Research on environmental impacts of t

    Linsheng Zhong a,*, Jinyang Deng b, Zengwen Songa Institute of Geographical Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy obRecreation, Parks and Tourism Resources Program, West Virginia University, Morgantoc School of Tourism and Leisure Management, The University of Queensland, Ipswich, 43

    a r t i c l e i n f o

    Article history:Received 19 June 2010Received in revised form29 June 2011Accepted 15 July 2011Available online 6 August 2011

    a b s t r a c t

    With the rapid developmeincreasing use of its naturaadversely impacted in manimpacts on the environmeeld. Specically, research

    journal homepage: www.eElsevier Ltd.rism in China: Progress and prospect

    eiyi Ding c

    iences, Beijing 100101, ChinaWV 26505, USAQLD, Australia

    of tourism industry in China since 1980, the country has experienced and cultural environment for tourism, resulting in tourism resources beingurism destinations. This paper described the research progress in tourismn the context of China through a review of the growing literature in thistourism impacts on the biophysical and socio-cultural environments,

    le at ScienceDirect

    ental Management

    evier .com/locate/ jenvman

  • \the increasing interests among China academics in conductingresearch on the environmental impacts of tourism, and the lack ofthe introduction of the work done by Chinese researchers to theirinternational counterparts, this paper reviewed studies and nd-ings on the environmental impacts of tourism in the context ofmainland China (excluding Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macaw). Thisreview was conducted by mainly focusing on research published inChina. However, research ndings published by Chinese researchersand their international collaborators in international English jour-nals were also reviewed. This paper is organized in such a way thata brief review on research progress in the environmental impacts of

    As shown, much of the research has been conducted in the EastChina Region (110 papers, accounting for 23.7% of a total of 465empirical studies), followed by the Southwest Region (82 papers),which is closely followed by the Central China Region (80 papers)and Northwest Region (71 papers), with the Northeast Region beingthe least researched (45 papers). In terms of research topics, moststudies focused on tourism impacts on the biophysical environ-ments (128 papers or 27.5%) and carrying capacity (117 papers or25.2%) with environmental quality evaluation (60 papers or 12.9%)and socio-cultural aspects of the tourism impacts (65 papers or14.0%) being the least researched.




    L. Zhong et al. / Journal of Environmental Management 92 (2011) 2972e2983 2973tourism in the country is presented rst, followed by a review oftourism impacts on both biophysical and social/cultural environ-ments, tourism environmental carrying capacity, tourism environ-mental quality assessment, and measures and actions that shouldbe taken for the protection and management of tourism resourcesin the country. In addition, research methods used in the literaturewere reviewed and discussed. Finally, a brief comparisonwas madebetween China and other developed countries with regard toresearch on tourism impacts on the environment.

    2. Research progress in the tourism environment in China

    Studies of the tourism environment have received increasingattention in China, especially in recent years. Although research onthe environmental impacts of tourism in the country has notemerged until the early 1980s (Xiang et al., 2007), a search of theChinese core journals using tourism environment as the keywordfrom, Chinas most prestigious and comprehensiveacademic search platform, and a search of the Scopus using the keywords tourism environment and China indicate that thenumber of academic papers on the tourism environment involvingChina has increased considerably after 2000. As Table 1 shows,during the 20 year period between 1981 and 2000, a total of 155papers have been published with an average of 7.8 papers per year.In contrast, 380 papers have been published during the nine yearperiod from 2001 to 2009, with an average of 42.2 papers per year.These papers examined a wide range of issues associated withtourism development in China, including environmental impacts,environment carrying capacity, environmental quality evaluation,and protection measures.

    Table 1 also shows the research trend on environmental impactsof tourism in the country. That is, more studies, particularly thoserelated to tourism impacts on the biophysical environment andconservation and management measures, have been conducted inrecent years. For example, 28 papers on tourism impacts on thebiophysical environment have been published between 2001 and2005while 72 published in the following 4 years. Relatively, studieson the socio-cultural aspects of tourism impacts have received lessattention.

    Table 2 and Fig. 1 present empirical studies (excluding articleson denitions and general review) conducted across the country.

    Table 1Number of papers on the tourism environment published by a 5-year interval.a

    Years Denition Physicalenvironmental impact


    1981e1985 e 2 11986e1990 4 5 11991e1995 5 12 31996e2000 7 23 92001e2005 4 28 (2) 23 (2)2006e2009 5 72 (3) 35 (7)Total 25 142 (5) 72 (9)a Numbers in brackets refer to papers published in international English journals.3. Denitions of the tourism environment

    The concept of tourism environment has been dened differ-ently by different people in China. The earliest denition was givenby Chen (1981) who dened tourism environment as a kind ofenvironment in which people can engage in tourism activities,experience beauty, gain spiritual, physical enjoyment and knowl-edge and have fun. It involves natural, social, economic and politicalenvironments as well as scientic and technological conditions(p.1). Since then, nearly 30 denitions have been provided based onit (e.g., Zhou, 1986; Liu, 1989; Chen and Lu, 1991; Sun and Chen,1989; Chen, 1992; Cui, 1995; Xiao, 1995; Lin, 1998; Wang, 2001;Hu, 2008). The common point among various denitions is thatthe tourism environment is a group of elements or interactionscentered on people, especially tourists. The group of elements wasvariously described as terms, systems, locations, aspects,factors, circumstances or conditions. The differences mainlylie in the contents and scopes of the tourism environment. Forexample, Zhou (1986) pointed out that tourism environment is thephysical and human environment, which consists of all the naturaland human factors, including air, water, land, ora and fauna, builtfacilities, landscape, color, sound and other environmental factors(p.29). This explanation of the tourism environment emphasizesthe biophysical side of the environment, while according to Chenand Lu (1991, p.20), the tourism environment should be the sumof all the external conditions on which tourism activities depend,including the social and political environment, ecological envi-ronment and tourism resources. Obviously, this denition goes farbeyond the biophysical environment in content and scope.

    In summary, existing denitions of the tourism environment canbe divided into two categories: narrow and broad. The narrow typeemphasizes the natural ecological environment or the biophysicalenvironment, while the broad type includes both biophysical andsocial-cultural environments. The broad type of denitions hasbeen more frequently used in the articles reviewed, whereas somescholars considered the economic environment as a component ofthe tourism environment while some others viewed the tourismenvironment as a system. For example, Lin (1998, p.14) dened thetourism environment as the compound system consisting of thenatural ecological environment and social-cultural environment,

    rrying capacity Environmentalquality evaluation

    Conservation andmanagement measures


    1 e e 42 5 4 217 4 10 417 10 23 893 13 (1) 25 1166 34 (1) 42 2646 66 (2) 104 535

  • with tourism activities as the center. This denition of tourismenvironment is representative of the views ofmost of China tourismresearchers and was adopted in this paper as the basis for thereview and analysis of research on the tourism environment.

    4. Tourism impacts on the environment

    As discussed above, the tourism environment has been broadlydened to involve biophysical and socio-cultural environments. Inthe case of the biophysical environment, a number of studies havebeen conducted to look at recreational and tourism impacts onwater, air, soil, ora and fauna and the soundscape. Relatively,a small number of studies have examined the socio-cultural aspectsof the tourism impacts as aforementioned. The following area review of selected studies.

    4.1. Biophysical environment

    pollution associated with tourism activities can lead to the utro-phication of a water setting, spread of infectious diseases, anddegradation of water conservation forests (Zhou, 1986; Li et al.,2000; Wang, 2003). Lv (2003) stressed that some recreationalactivities, such as boating, surng, rafting, and swimming, can havenegative impacts on the water environment. Wastes left by touristson surface water can seriously pollute the water quality. Lis (2003)study showed that solid wastes from restaurants and hotels excretaand sewage, as well as oil and heavy metals from the use of motorvessels have caused water pollution.

    Table 3 presents a summary of several empirical studies on theimpact of tourism activities on the water environment. Li et al.,(2000) found that sewage directly discharged into the groundwater and surface water has caused water pollution in manytourism areas. For example, the discharge of sewage from ChangbaiMountain National Nature Reserve, Jilin Province has polluted thewatershed of the Erdaobai River to such an extent that some indi-

    Table 2Number of empirical studies on the tourism environment by region.

    Region Physicalenvironmental impact


    Carrying capacity Environmentalquality evaluation

    Conservation andmanagement measures


    Northwest region 14 9 22 13 13 71Southwest region 26 (1) 13 (2) 14 12 (1) 17 82North China region 17 8 (1) 8 5 7 45Northeast region 6 4 6 1 9 26Central China region 22 (4) 6 21 11 20 80South China region 16 9 (2) 10 4 12 51East China region 27 16 (4) 36 14 (1) 17 110Total 128 (5) 65 (9) 117 60 (2) 95 465

    L. Zhong et al. / Journal of Environmental Management 92 (2011) 2972e298329744.1.1. Water environmentWaterscape is an important environmental element for

    a tourism destination. Sewage, feces, garbage, and other sources ofFig. 1. Empirical studies on the environmentacators of organic pollution have increased by 10%e30% overa decade period (Yu et al., 1999). Wen et al. (2003), in monitoringecotourism in the northwest of Yunnan Province, reported that thebacteria levels of surface water in the Bitahai Lake have increasedl impacts of tourism in China by region.

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    ntalby nearly three times while the total number of bacteria for groundwater has signicantly increased at two monitoring points (i.e.,Bitahai and Hot Springs) as a consequence of the rapid growth ofthe number of horseback tourists during the World Expo ofKunming City in 1999, albeit the environmental quality indicatorsfor the two attractions met the national standard for Class I water.In addition, the content of nitrate nitrogen at Bitahai and anothermonitoring point, Songzanlin Temple, increased by 2.3 and 4.9times respectively. Qu (2007) found that the changes of the envi-ronmental quality in Sand Lake of Ningxia Province were mainlydue to the tourism-related solid wastes, sewage and oil, whichweredischarged directly to the lakes by fuel-driven motor boats, shing,swimming, and other human activities. Similar ndings werereported in Australia whereas water quality has been reduced dueto hydrocarbon contamination, the accumulation of pollutants, andslicks of lubricating oils on the water surface as a result of recrea-tional use of lakes and rivers (Mosisch and Arthington, 1998).

    4.1.2. Atmospheric environmentThe atmospheric environment of some tourism areas in the

    country has been negatively impacted due to the use of coal andother fuels (i.e., diesel) for heating and other purposes (Yu et al.,1999; Ming et al., 2001; Li et al., 2003; Wang, 2003), use of vehi-cles (Jiang et al., 1996; Li et al., 2000), and tourist activities (Li et al.,2004; Hu, 2005; Zhou et al., 2009). For instance, Li et al. (2003)reported that the air quality in a tourism area has been greatly

    Table 3Selected empirical studies about impacts on water environment by tourism activitie

    Type of activities/source of pollution

    Motor boating Swimming Se

    Surface waterUtrophication Zhou (1986), Li et al. (2000),

    Li et al. (2003)ZhYu

    Bacteria Lv (2003), Qu (2007) Qu (2007) Li

    Visual landscape Lv (2003)Odour ZhInfectious disease Lv (2003), Qu (2007)GroundwaterBacillus coli Li


    Bacteria WTotal hardness

    L. Zhong et al. / Journal of Environmereduced due to the emission of smoke, sulfur dioxide, nitrogenoxides and other harmful gases from the use of coal by powerplants and heating facilities. Similar nding was also reported byWang (2003) and Yu et al. (1999) who found that the atmosphere inChangbai Mountain National Nature Reserve has been polluted dueto the use of coal and diesel for heating and cooking.

    Vehicle emissions also lead to air pollution (Li et al., 2000). Forexample, themonitoring results of the atmospheric environment inJinding Emei Mountain region of Sichuan Province showed that theaverage daily concentrations of SO2 exceeded the national standardin some scenic spots, due to emissions from coal-powered auto-mobiles (Jiang et al., 1996).

    Studies of the impact of tourism activities within a closedenvironment have also been conducted in the country. For example,the caving impact on the air was found to be mainly due to thereduction of the amount of O2, the increase of the amount of CO2,changes of temperature within the cave and the increase of dusts(Hu, 2005). For instance, Li et al. (2004) reported a signicantincrease in CO2 concentration as a result of tourist uses in Huang-long Cave, an essential component of the Wulingyuan Scenic Area,Hunan Province. Likewise, another survey-based study (Zhou et al.,2009) on the changes of temperature, humidity, and CO2 concen-tration in Jin-tian Cave of Shandong Province, found visitation hadalready caused the environmental changes of the Karst cave. Visitoractivities and resulting impacts on caves were also reported else-where. For instance, the Lascaux Cave paintings in France werediscolored by algae which grew in a large amount due to the use ofarticial lighting and the increase of CO2 derived from visitors inlarge numbers (Dellue and Dellue, 1984).

    Cultural tourism activities such as worship at temples can alsopollute the air quality. One preliminary study of environmentalimpacts in the ecotourism area of Yunnan Province showed that theconcentration of SO2 in the atmosphere increased signicantly dueto a dramatic increase in the number of Tibetan visitors who visitedthe Songzanlin temple in a large crowd and who burned tons ofincense for worship. In addition, the consumption of coal andtimber in a large amount for heating and cooking signicantlyincreased the level of SO2, NOx and TSP around the temple (Wenet al., 2003).

    4.1.3. Soil and soil erosionAn inappropriate tourism development model may result in soil

    erosion and desertication. If environmental protection wasignored, the nutrients contained in the soil would be reduced andsalinization and acidication would occur (Lv, 2003). Several casestudies on tourism impacts on soil have been conducted in China.


    e Feces Garbage

    1986), Li et al. (2000),l. (1999), Qu (2007)

    Zhou (1986) Zhou (1986), Li et al. (2000),Li et al. (2003)

    . (2003) Wen et al. (2003) Li et al. (2003), Wen et al. (2003),Guan et al. (2009)

    Zhou (1986) Zhou (1986), Li et al. (2000)1986) Zhou (1986) Lv (2003)

    Zhou (1986)

    . (2000),t al. (2003),t al. (2009)t al. (2003)

    Wen et al. (2003)

    Management 92 (2011) 2972e2983 2975For instance, Zhang et al. (2009) found that the bulk density hasincreased in soil of the upper 0w 20 cm, while the soil porosity andwater holding capacity have declined rapidly. In addition, thesaturated water content has decreased by 10%, 48% and 75% in theslightly, moderately and severely impacted sites, respectively.Another study (Gong et al., 2009) conducted of HuangshanMountain Scenic Area in Anhui Province found the impacted soilcovered an area of about 15 m away from a trail, but the mostaffected areas were within 5 m of the trail. Wang et al. (2004)showed that the erosion has led to the loss of 50,000 m3 of soildue to the construction of tourist infrastructure and excessive horseriding, which has also been reported in many other studies outsideof China to cause the most damage to soil (e.g., Dale and Weaver,1974; Wilson and Seney, 1994; Deluca et al., 1998). Soil erosion asa result of recreational uses was also reported in other developingcountries such as India where the conditions of tourism are verysimilar to China. For instance, Geneletti and Dawa (2009) examinedthe adverse environmental impacts of trekking and other tourismactivities in Ladakh, Indian Himalaya, whereas the soil erosionsusceptibility was modeled and mapped using GIS.

  • increasing attention from researchers in China, although studies onthe natural environment still dominate the literature (Liu, 2003).

    In China, much of the research on the socio-cultural aspects oftourism impacts has focused on the demonstration effect of tour-ists, changes of local lifestyle, traditional culture and social struc-tures, adoption of different moral conduct, loss of culturalauthenticity, and traditional craftwork commercialization (Liuet al., 2004; Zhou and Wu, 2004; Xie et al., 2006, 2009). Forexample, Lius et al. study on tourism impacts on Tibetan culturetraits found that Tibetans residing in the Jiuzhaigou Scenic Areahave been largely inuenced by tourists of Han nationality, in that84.5%, 79.4%, 78.4%, and 69.2% of respondents reported havingchanged their preferences for food, oral language, dressing, andhousing style, respectively. Similar ndings were reported inanother study (Liu and Zhu, 2006) conducted of Zhapo Town inHailing Island, Guangdong Province wherein the social-culturalenvironment of the Town has been signicantly changed due to

    ntalSeveral other studies have looked at the chemical aspects of soilas related to tourism activities. For example, Lv et al. (2008) foundthe organic matter (OM) content in contrast areas was over 2.73%,but decreased to 2.30%w2.73% in tourism-impacted areas inGegentala Grassland of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. Jianget al. (1996) reported that soil at Emei Mountain of Sichuan Prov-ince was seriously and remarkably acidied as a result of aciddeposition. The pH value of soil trampled by visitors was lower andthe content of aluminum and manganese of soil was signicantlyincreased, which have poisoned plant roots and affected theabsorption of nutrients of r trees. Studies in Bitahai NatureReserve of Yunnan Province also showed a deep and long-termimpact on the nature of soil due to tourism activities and associ-ated trampling and wastes (Wang et al., 2004). Specically, tram-pling reduced soil coverage, heightened soil compaction, reducedwater absorption and increased the formation of surface runoffwhich further led to soil erosion. In addition, wastes changed thestructure of the soil and reduced soil biological activities. The studyalso found that beverages (i.e., orange juices) spilt on the soil havechanged pH value of soil.

    4.1.4. Flora and faunaTourism impacts on vegetation include biodiversity loss, dete-

    rioration of the community structure, and decrease in plantproductivity or even the extinction of some species. For instance,studies on r forests in Emei Mountain of Sichuan Provincerevealed that the r mortality rate in the highly used areas byvisitors was up to several times higher than other regions. Themainhazards to rs include air and soil pollution, tourist wastes,construction of tourism infrastructure, and tourist trampling (Jianget al., 1996). In the Changbai Mountain Nature Reserve, Jilin Prov-ince, the construction of tourism facilities has brought aboutsignicant ecological impacts on the tundra zone, with the vege-tation cover near the Tianchi Weather Station being reduced from30% in the 1980s to about 10% in the 1990s (Yu et al., 1999).Another study on the Bitahai Wetland Scenic Area reported loss oflarge areas of vegetation due to tourists trampling, picking ofplants, horse grazing, horse manure disposal, and the invasion ofalien species (Wang et al., 2004). Finally, the research on KanasiScenic Area of Xinjiang Province showed that some tourism-sensitive plants disappeared or their important value decreased,while some tourism-resistant species expanded their population(Zheng et al., 2008). Table 4 presents selected case studies ontourism impacts on ora and fauna in the country.

    Tourism activities can also have a direct impact on wildlife interms of disturbance on their habitats and behaviors. Whittaker andKnight (1998) identied three different types of behavioral reactionof animalsdavoidance, attraction, and habitationsdas beingfundamental in understanding wildlife responses to humans. InChina, tourism impacts on wildlife were less investigated than soiland vegetation, and few studies have examined these three types ofbehavioral reaction. Wang and Weng (2003) reported that somehabitats havebeen seriouslyaffected, resulting in the sharp reductionof the wildlife population, which, in turn, changed the food networkand shortened the food chains. Pang (2004) reported that touristactivities interferedwithbird andanimals life andhabitats. Similarly,Zhang and Yu (2006) found hunting activities have changed thenumberof animals, reduced animal food supplies andcaused indirecteffects by disturbing animal breeding, feeding and rest.

    4.1.5. Sound environmentThe soundscape is an important component of the tourism

    environment. It helps to create a comfortable environment anda good tourist experience. However, tourism activities often cause

    L. Zhong et al. / Journal of Environme2976noise pollution.Lv (2003) observed that a sound level beyond 50 dB in thetourism area can be generally regarded as noise. The sources of thenoise pollution range from vehicles or machinery to tourists.Tourism development inevitably brings transport in, which createstrafc noises (Zhou, 1986; Gong et al., 2008). In scenic tourismareas, cars can produce noise up to 90 dB, disturbing the quiettourism environment, causing fatigue to visitors, and interferingwith the living environment and health of wild animals in zoos (Lin,1991). Noises from aircraft taking off and landing, automobiles andother trafcs and noises from entertainment in tourism districtssuch as dance halls and nightclubs, have a huge inuence on localcommunities. For instance, the noise may harm residents hearingorgans and cause psychological problems (Li et al., 2000). Empiricalresearch has shown that tourism activities had caused noises andnegative impacts on the environment. For example, monitoringresults in April (low season) and August (high season) in 1999showed that the environmental noise level was within the 0 cate-gory of noise standard in the Bitahai Nature Reserve, but on anupward trend (Wen et al., 2003).

    4.2. Socio-cultural environment

    Tourism development can facilitate a destinations moderniza-tion, social/cultural re-construction and revitalization of traditionalarts. Tourism development can also enhance and consolidate localresidents civil prides, promote communication with the outsideworld, and help develop a benign foreign culture demonstrationeffect (Yang, 2001). That being said, tourism development maynegatively affect the social life and local culture in a destination.Since the 1980s, the socio-cultural impacts of tourism have drawn

    Table 4Recent research on tourism impacts on vegetation in China.

    Impact Studies

    Reduction in height Shi et al. (2004); Zhu et al. (2006);Zhu et al. (2008); Gong et al. (2009)

    Reduced cover Yu et al. (1999); Wang et al. (2004);Zhu et al. (2006); Fu et al. (2009)

    Reduced living biomass Jiang et al. (1996); Zheng et al. (2008)Damage to seedlings Wang et al. (2004)Changes in species Cheng et al. (2003); Zhu et al. (2006);

    Zheng et al. (2008); Zhu et al. (2008);Fu et al. (2009); Gong et al. (2009)

    Damage to trees (cutting, etc.) Jiang et al. (1996); Yu et al. (1999);Deng et al. (2003); Shi et al. (2004)

    Spread of weed Zhu et al. (2006); Gong et al. (2009)Exotic specie invasion Wang et al. (2004); Zhu et al. (2006)Root exposure Li et al. (2005)

    Management 92 (2011) 2972e2983tourism development.

  • Zhao (2003) proposed a conceptual framework to analyzedifferent stages of development of the tourism industry and theinteraction of the tourism and human environment in a commu-nity. The framework describes four kinds of relationships: inde-pendent, cooperation, conict, and conformity (Fig. 2), inaccordance with the development of tourism stages. In the edg-ling stage of the tourism industry, tourism has little effect on thehuman environment in a community. As the tourism industryincreases in scale it brings positive inuences to the community.Also, the tourism and human environment in the community beginto improve and there is a cooperative relationship between the two.As visitor numbers continue to increase and exceed the local resi-dent population the development of the tourism industry willincrease the price for the community, lead to passenger congestionand road obstruction. Moreover, certain diseases which can seri-ously affect the lives of community residents will emerge. As

    of the environmental quality and numerous suggestions proposedto balance the use and protection of tourism resources. Thefollowing are a review of studies on tourism environmentalcarrying capacity, environmental quality assessment, andmeasuresfor the projection and management of tourism destinations.

    5.1. Tourism environmental carrying capacity

    With the rapid tourism development in China, the problemsassociatedwith the tourism capacity have emerged quickly becauseof insufcient tourism facilities and poor tourism planning. Studieson tourism environment carrying capacity (TECC) have thusdeveloped to nd the appropriate number of visitors that a tourismdestination can accommodate. Since the early 1980s when Zhao(1983) discussed tourism carrying capacity in the context ofChina for the rst time, research on TECC in the country has begunto draw a wide attention from researchers, with recent studiesbeing more quantitative as opposed to earlier studies being morequalitative in nature.

    TECC has been dened differently by different researchers fromdifferent perspectives. Table 5 presents a summary of these de-nitions. As shown, Bao (1987) dened TECC as the maximumnumber of tourists that a scenic area can accommodate withoutcompromising the tourist satisfaction and the environmentalquality of the area, while some others (e.g., Liu and Jin, 1985; Liuand Yu, 2003) dened TECC from a more broader perspective (i.e.,

    natural environmental carrying capacities.

    L. Zhong et al. / Journal of Environmental Management 92 (2011) 2972e2983 2977a result, the cooperative relationship between tourism and humanenvironment in the community turns to conict. Vacation tourismfatigue undermines the traditional folk culture of the region,destroys the basis for regional development, changes the directionof development and harms the interests of the community. Suchnegative impact leads to conict in tourism destinations (Xie andZheng, 2001; Zhao, 2007). However, when the various stake-holders in the community realize they will benet from thedevelopment, adjustment between tourism and the human envi-ronment in the community will lead to solution to many of thecontradictions caused by the development of tourism in thecommunity with a return to a positive relationship.

    5. Carrying capacity, quality assessment, and measures

    Tourism impacts on the environment as reviewed above notonly damage or disturb the natural/cultural resources upon whichtourism development depends, but also affect tourists experience.This raises the question as to how to maximize tourists experiencewhile minimizing their impacts on the environment. Researchershave been trying to address this issue by examining and deter-mining the optimal carrying capacity for a tourism destination orattraction. Joining this effort, a number of studies in China have alsobeen conducted. However, as experienced elsewhere, researchersin China also found it difcult to prescribe an appropriate visitornumber for a destination. Moreover, even such a number can bedetermined as discussed later on, it is hard to implement in practicebecause increasing visitation and resulting revenues are the goalfor most destinations. As a result, many tourism areas have expe-rienced environmental quality degradation to some extent,resulting in a number of studies being conducted on the assessment


    Visitor number




    IntegrityFig. 2. Interaction relationship between tourism and the human environment ina community (Zhao, 2003).Bian and Wang (2002) TECC relates to an urban tourism environmentalcarrying capacity.

    Liu and Yu (2003) TECC of a scenic tourist area is an importantcomponent of AVC (Attraction, Vitality, andCapacity), which involves economic inputeoutputcapacity; tourists, residents, and social culturalaccommodation capacity; and ecologicalsocial, economic, psychological, etc.)Zhong et al. (2003) argued that TECC is affected by a number of

    factors such as the natural environment, land type, land use,humanistic environment and temporal variation, managementstandards, and tourists characteristic, and as a result, the calcula-tion of TECC is not easy. A number of scholars (i.e., Liu and Jin, 1985;Hu, 1995; Cui, 1997, 1998; Feng, 1999; Xu, 1999; Dai et al., 2002;Quan et al., 2002; Wen et al., 2002; Wang and Weng, 2003;Huang et al., 2008) have discussed how TECC should be measuredandwhat variables should be considered. For example, according to

    Table 5Some Chinese research that has documented the denition of TECC.

    Studies Denition

    Liu and Jin (1985) TECC is a conceptual system including the touristspsychological capacity, tourism resources capacity,ecological capacity, tourism economic developmentcapacity and tourism geographicalcommunity capacity.

    Bao (1987) TECC is the maximum number of tourists that ascenic area can accommodate withoutcompromising the tourist satisfaction and theenvironmental quality of the area.

    Cui (1997, 1998) TECC consists of the environmental ecologicalbearing capacity, resource space accommodationcapacity, psychological bearing capacity, andeconomic bearing capacity.

    Yang (1996) TECC in tourist resorts is the minimum of scale,intensity, or rate of tourism activities that thenatural, articial and social environment can bearin a certain period of time, with the prerequisiteof achieving the sustainable development.

    Liu (2000) TECC includes sightseeing, living, land use andenvironmental bearing capacity.

  • Cui (1997, 1998), the tourism bearing capacity is affected by socio-cultural environmental factors, socio-economic environmentalfactors, and ecological environmental factors. Table 6 presents theTECC values determined bymaximumnumbers of tourists for somescenic areas.

    Tourism environmental carrying capacity has been used effec-tively in the practice of tourism management and planning. Forexample, Lu (1994) found that tourist numbers in HuangshanMountain of Anhui Province during the peak season greatlyreduced tourism amenity and also led to more environmentalpollution and ecological damage. Han (1997) and Xiao (1999)pointed out existing misunderstandings in the environmentalcarrying capacity research and then gave some countermeasures. Li(2001) discussed applications of tourism carrying capacity theoryand provided suggestions on the implementation of managementand growth strategy in tourism areas. Liang (2002) simulated thebalancing process for socio-economic bearing capacity elementsusing economic theories and mathematical models. In the context

    L. Zhong et al. / Journal of Environmental2978Environmental quality assessment is one of tools to examine thequality of the tourism environment in a quantitative way. Theoptimization of the tourism environment is signicant to thesustainable tourism development. Although the method ofassessing the tourism environmental quality has been discussedone way or another by some researchers, a universal standard fortourism quality assessment in China has not been developedbecause of too many uncertain factors involved. Depending on thenature of the tourism activities, the choice of evaluation indicatorsvaries. Table 7 presents selected indicators used in recent researchin China. As shown, the environmental quality assessment indica-tors consist of ve types: the tourism landscape and resources

    Table 6Maximum number of visitors determined in selected tourism areas.

    Studies Study areas TECC values

    Zhao (1983) Zhuozheng Garden ofSuzhou City

    9055 visitorsper day

    Bao (1987) Summer Palace of Beijing City 42,087 visitorsper day

    Cui (1997) Taishan Mountain ofShandong Province

    9840 visitorsper day

    Luo (1997) Wuyishan National ScenicArea of Fujian Province

    37,377 visitorsper day

    Sun and Wang (2000) Wuzhishan of Hainan Province 2400 visitors per dayHu and Zhu (2002) Tiantaishan National Scenic

    Area of Zhejiang Province5282 visitors per day

    Shi and He (2007) Zhangjiajie National ForestPark of Hunan Province

    13,255 visitors perday

    Zhang and Zhu (2007) Jiuzhaigou National ScenicArea of Sichuan Province

    22,000 visitorper day

    Lin et al. (2009) Basomtso lake scenic area 945 visitors per dayof sustainable development in tourism, Dai et al. (2002) furtherexamined the systems regulating the tourism environmentalcarrying capacity. In one tourism master planning study of scenicareas undertaken by the Tsinghua University, the Limited Accept-able Changes (LAC) conceptual framework and its derivative tech-nologies were applied. In addition, sub-regional regulatory plans,goal-strategy-action three-level cooperating plans, the resourceprotection hierarchy spectrum and determination of indicators andstandards were all developed in the study (Yang, 1996). Finally,Wang et al. (2002) studied the optimal planning for tourismdevelopment based on the tourism environment carrying capacityat Dongfeng Lake in Guizhou Province.

    5.2. Tourism environmental quality assessmentof Tibet Autonomous Regionindicators, natural environment indicators, infrastructure envi-ronment indicators, social environment indicators, and tourisminformation environment indicators.

    The environmental quality of tourism destinations has beenexamined in China from different aspects. For example, Zheng(1982) discussed environmental quality assessment methods forscenic tourism areas from the aesthetic perspective. This assess-ment involved a selection of the parameters, determination ofevaluation standards, and establishment of an evaluation model.Chen and Jiang (1990), taking Hainan Islands as an example,studied the environmental quality assessment of coastal tourismand updated a calculation method for a beach environmentalquality assessment index. Zheng (1998) used the beach assessmentcriteria of Japan to assess the tourism environmental quality ofoutdoor bathing areas through an analysis of tourist environmentalconditions and problems of the beaches on the south coast ofQingdao City. Wang (2001) quantitatively evaluated the conditionsof the tourism environment system. Specically, Delphi methodand the Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP) were used to identify theassessment indicators, determine their weights, and derive thetotal assessment value. Wan and Bao (2002) established a set ofindices and models for tourism environmental quality assessmentin mountain resorts and took Huang Mountain and TianzhuMountain in Anhu Province as the examples. Wan (2003) estab-lished mathematical models using a weighted composite indexmethod and individual indicator scores to comprehensively assessthe tourism environmental quality in Nanjing City and Suzhou Cityof Jiangsu Province. Li and Cheng (2005) established a tourismenvironmental quality evaluation model using a comprehensivemulti-level fuzzy evaluation method, and conducted an assessmentof the environmental quality of Xidi. Through consultations withexperts and some relative studies, Cao (2005) conducted a quanti-tative evaluation of tourism environmental quality in Kaifeng Cityof Henan Province using the fuzzy comprehensive evaluationmethod. Chen (2006) assessed the tourism environmental qualityin Gushan Mountain in Fuzhou City, Fujian Province and putforward several optimization measures using the AHP method.Finally, Wang and Zou (2006), in examining the interactions amongvarious evaluation factors that inuence tourism environmentalquality and visitors responses to the tourism impacts on theenvironment, established a subject function for each indicator anda mathematical multi-level fuzzy model to have comprehensivelyand quantitatively assessed the tourism environmental quality inLianyungang city of Jiangsu Province.

    5.3. Measures for the protection and management oftourism resources

    Given the increasing negative impacts of tourism developmenton the environment, a number of researchers have called forserious attention to be paid to the protection and management ofthe tourism resources. And measures such as sustainable tourismdevelopment, scientic planning, governance, reinforcement ofpolicy and laws, use of economic incentives, increase of environ-mental awareness, and use of scientic and technical tools havebeen proposed. A brief description of these measures follows.

    A number of researchers have emphasized the importance ofdeveloping Chinas tourism in a sustainable manner. For example,Zhong et al. (2003) examined tourism impacts on the biophysical,socio-cultural, and economic aspects of the tourism sustainability inZhangjiajie National Forest Park based on the conceptual frame-work of the tourism destination lifecycle model. They stressed thatthe park should take the model as a warning by which long-termsustainability can be achieved or enhanced through constant

    Management 92 (2011) 2972e2983adjustments, corrections, and proactive actions (p. 855).

  • f unial v


    elecic sencyct, edes

    , tou

    ntalScientic planning is important for tourism environmentalconservation (Ming et al., 2000). Several studies have appliedenvironmental planning methods, environmental quality assess-ment methods, or zoning methods to develop tourism plans fortourism destinations. Tang et al. (2004) proposed to dividea tourism area into zones with different ecological functions, tomake rational tourist routes, and to control the number of touristsso as to maximally reduce the adverse effects of tourism develop-ment on wetland waterfowls. The environmental planning methodwas applied in the tourism plan for the Changbai Mountain NatureReserve whereas the tourism development and environmentalprotection was well balanced to achieve the sustainable develop-ment (Yu et al., 1999). In another study (Pei, 1991) on tourismdevelopment in Chengde City, zoning was used for tourismresource protection.

    Using theories of environmental science and tourism to protectthe tourism environment or to restore damage to the environmentis a fundamental measure to prevent the tourism environmentfrom being damaged. Therefore, it is necessary to increase invest-ment in science and technology to mobilize scientic researchinstitutions and personnel and to implement their research resultsas soon as possible (Wang et al., 2004).

    Researchers have also suggested protecting and managing thetourism environment via appropriate governance so thatmanagement agencies can consolidate in terms of the planning andmanagement of tourism resources and implementation ofresponsibility (Liu and Bao, 1996; Deng, 2002). Lin (1999) empha-

    Table 7Environmental quality assessment indicators.

    Type of Indicators List of Indicators

    Tourism Landscape and Resources Degree of perceived scenic beauty, degree odiversity of resources, scientic value, culturcompatibility with the natural environment

    Natural environment Air quality, water quality, temperature, prec

    Infrastructure environment Transportation, food and lodging, water andrecreation, shopping, medical facilities, publrational price, service attitude, service efcie

    Social environment Service quality (i.e., attitude, codes of condutour guide qualication, local resident attitu

    Tourism information environment Network condition, promotion performance

    L. Zhong et al. / Journal of Environmesized the importance of the establishment and improvement ofenvironmental management systems with collaboration betweendifferent departments under a unied leadership. In addition, inorder to improve the accessibility of tourist destinations and thedevelopment of the tourism industry, local governments andindustry organizations should promote the construction of tourisminfrastructure based on the actual local infrastructure situation;and at the same time, build up the environmental awareness ofadministrators, encourage ecotourism, enhance the environmentalawareness of local residents and improve governments regulationand control in order to achieve sustainable development of touristareas (Weng et al., 2006).

    Lin (1999) proposed strengthening construction of tourismenvironmental policies, laws and regulations. Ming et al. (2000)pointed out that, in most cases, policy was the premise and pre-condition of management. It is therefore important to developuseful tourism policy guidance for the purpose of the environ-mental conservation and to make a good use of the leading role ofgovernments and industry associations. Liu (2004) stated that itwas necessary to layout reasonable eco-economic managementpolicies by government in the process of strengthening theprotection of ecological resources and promoting ecologicalmanagement. Existing laws and regulations such as the Environ-mental Protection Law and Regulations for Scenic Area Manage-ment require the consideration of the actual operation of thescenic areas, and pursue their legal responsibilities againstwhoever undermines the tourism environment (Liu and Bao, 1996).Legal means are mainly used to avoid, reduce or control tourism-related projects or other economic activities that harm thetourism environment and to punish people who violated laws andregulations (Li and Dong, 1999). Liu (2004) argued that there wasa need to accelerate the legislative process and to strengthen thelegal management and the necessary supervision of the tourismindustry by law enforcement agencies.

    Economic means to environmental protection and managementcan arouse the attention of tourism operators and tourists moreeasily than others. For example, pressures on the environment can bereduced throughprice adjustmentsduring the lowandpeak seasons,use of the tourism tax with different tax rates, use of incentive andpunitive measures, and so on (Liu and Bao, 1996; Lin, 1999).

    Finally, propaganda and education can raise the environmentalawareness of visitors, which is very useful for the environmentalprotection in tourism areas (Ming et al., 2000). Publicity andeducation of an ecological environment culture to tourists canimprove peoples awareness of ecological protection, promptpeople to promote ecological values and fulll ecological obliga-tions (Liu, 2004).


    queness, degree of integrity,alue, artistic value,

    Pei (1991); Wang (2001); Wan and Bao (2002);Wan (2003); Li and Cheng (2005);Wang and Zou (2006); Liu and Zhang (2009)

    tion, Flora, Fauna, sanitation Pei (1991); Wang (2001); Wan and Bao (2002);Wan (2003); Li (2004); Li and Cheng (2005);Chen (2006); Liu and Zhang (2009);Wang and Zou (2006)

    tricity, safety infrastructure,curity, re ghting,, interpretation

    Wan (2003); Li and Cheng (2005);Wang and Zou (2006); Chen (2006)

    fciency) tourism policy, Wang (2001); Wan and Bao (2002); Wan (2003);Li (2004); Li and Cheng (2005); Chen (2006);Wang and Zou (2006); Liu and Zhang (2009)

    rism destination image Wang and Zou (2006); Liu and Zhang (2009)

    Management 92 (2011) 2972e2983 29796. Research methods

    A review of the literature indicates that both qualitative andquantitative methods have been used in the study eld of tourismimpacts on the environment with data collected from eld moni-toring, questionnaire surveys, and/or in-depth interviews. Table 8outlines the methods used in the literature. Relatively, qualitativemethods have been used extensively, accounting for 64% of theliterature reviewed. Qualitative methods were used for the conceptdescription, the analysis of the dialectical relationship betweentourism and environment, the description of the relationshipbetween regional tourism activities and the environment, and forthe countermeasure analysis to solve the conicts between tourismand the environment.

    In terms of quantitative methods used in the literature, math-ematical modeling or computer simulationwas used to analyze andprocess spatial data as it relates to the tourism environmentcapacity and multi-factor comprehensive evaluation of the envi-ronmental impact. For example, Chen and Jiang (1990) integrated

  • a number of factors to develop a coastal environment qualityassessment index model. Pei (1991) proposed an assessment modelfor tourism environmental quality in Chengde City, whereas a spatialdistribution map of the tourism environmental quality was createdfor the city. Using the ecological footprint concept, Li and Gan (2007)developed an environmental capacity assessment model. In addi-tion, methods such as fuzzy mathematical modeling (Cao, 2005),measurement models using fuzzy linear programming (Yang andGuo, 2003) were applied in tourism environmental impact studies.

    Advanced statistical analyses such as multiple regression anal-ysis and cluster analysis were also used in some studies (e.g., Panand Zhang, 1993; Du et al., 2005; Liu, 2005). For instance, Panand Zhang (1993) developed a formula to predict the environ-mental noise using regression analysis. Liu (2005) analyzed theecological effects caused by tourism development on LingshanMountain in Beijing with the statistical analysis of TM data.

    L. Zhong et al. / Journal of Environmental2980In terms of methods for data collection, eld monitoring hasbeen used in such circumstances that some tourism impacts lingerand can only become salient after a certain period of time (i.e., airpollution, water pollution, social-cultural changes). While eldmonitoring is an effective approach to understanding the process oftourism impacts on the environment, only a limited number of thestudies reviewed adopted this approach (e.g. Pan and Zhang, 1993;Wen et al., 2003;Wang et al., 2004). Questionnaires surveys and in-depth interviews have also been frequently used to study thetourism environment. For example, Zhou (2003) conducteda survey on visitors and investors in Dalian City and statisticallyderived an environmental factor correction coefcient for thetourism economy of the city.

    7. Research in China compared with elsewhere

    Tourism development in China as compared to other countriessuch as U.K., USA and Australia is a recent phenomenon. As a result,Chinas tourism environment studies, from the very beginning,have been primarily based on research topics originated in thesecountries. The main themes of tourism environment studies inChina are discussed below.

    Although tourism environmental impact studies in China star-ted late, most studies have successfully applied internationalexperiences with the local situation in the country. A substantialnumber of studies have been carried out, providing fruitful resultsand playing an important role in promoting tourism sustainabledevelopment in the country. That being said, compared to similarstudies conducted in western developed countries as well as somedeveloping countries such as India and Nepal where quantitativemethods (e.g., Nepal and Nepal, 2004; Geneletti and Dawa, 2009)

    Table 8Methods used in the tourism environment studies in China.

    Methods Studies

    QualitativeDescriptive analysis Zhou (1986); Lin (1996); Li and Dong, 1999;

    Ming et al. (2000); Du et al. (2005);Hu (2005); Hu (2008)

    Questionnaires surveys Jiang et al. (1996); Zhou (2003); Liu et al. (2004)In-depth interviews Deng et al. (2003); Xie (2003); Zhong et al. (2003);

    Liu and Zhu (2006); Zhao (2007)QuantitativeMathematical

    modelingChen and Jiang (1990); Pei (1991);Yang and Guo (2003); Li and Gan (2007);Cao (2005); Li and Yang (2007)

    Statistical analyses Pan and Zhang (1993); Du et al. (2005);Liu (2005); Fu et al. (2009)

    Field monitoring Pan and Zhang (1993); Cheng et al. (2003);Quan (2003); Wen et al. (2003);

    Wang et al. (2004); Gong et al. (2008)have been largely used, most tourism environmental studies inChina are qualitative and descriptive. In addition, some papers areno more than an introduction and summary of the concepts,theories and methods borrowed from publications in Englishjournals, while case studies and studies using quantitative researchmethods are scarce. The areas that need to be further addressed areoutlined below:

    (1) Research on the tourism environment in China is prevalentlyqualitative. These studies contributed very little to theoreticaldevelopment and the understanding of the relationshipbetween the cause and effect of the impacts. Most of thesestudies examined the environmental consequences of touristactivities but did not discuss how such consequences havetaken place. Therefore, more studies should be conducted toinvestigate the mechanism of the tourism impacts.

    (2) Studies of environmental impacts have been conducted froma tourism perspective and lack a systematic discussion basedon the environmental or ecological sciences. Most studies werebased on secondary data or short term monitoring or obser-vations. In addition, the researchers are mostly scholars withexpertise on tourism management or planning. There is a needfor more environmental research studies to be undertakenusing primary data and long-term monitoring from theperspective of environmental sciences.

    (3) The negative impacts of tourism have been highlighted in theexisting literature. However, the positive impacts of touristactivities have been inadequately examined. Only bystrengthening research in this area and enabling stakeholdersto recognize both the harms of environmental destruction andthe benets of tourism environmental protection, can tourismbe guided to the direction toward the sustainable development.

    (4) Tourist activities and environmental conditions interact ina way that the former can damage or promote the latter whilethe latter can affect tourist activities or tourism environmentnegatively, leading to a decline in tourist numbers. To clarifythe interactions between tourism and the environment, morestudies are needed to examine the feedback effects of envi-ronmental changes resulting from tourist activities.

    (5) Although the concept of the tourism environment has beendened broadly, existing studies have paid more attention tothe impacts on the natural and ecological environment withlittle research being conducted on the socio-cultural environ-ment. In addition,more attention has been paid to the studies ofthe tourism environment effects while studies incorporatingenvironmental, social and economic considerations appearinadequate.

    (6) Studies on various aspects of the environmental carryingcapacity of tourism areas have been done, although there isa lack of universal denition as to what constitutes carryingcapacity. And its measurements are still in the stage of quali-tative description and scientic parameters are not available.Therefore, the assessment of the environmental capacity oftourism areas needs more quantitative studies.

    (7) Studies on the evaluation of the tourism environment qualityand on the establishment of standards for tourism environ-mental quality assessment are needed. More case studies needto be undertaken to support existing and/or develop newtheories and frameworks.

    (8) More innovative and integrated methods are needed in theeld of environmental impacts of tourism due to this studyeld being quite interdisciplinary. For example, the extent anddegree of tourism impacts can be evaluated by involving thescience of tourism, geography, environment, ecology, sociology,

    Management 92 (2011) 2972e2983anthropology and psychology.

  • ntal8. Conclusions and suggestions

    Studies on tourism environmental impacts have entered a newera in China with a large number of active researchers conductingresearch in this eld. Research areas have been focusing ontourism-related environmental impacts, tourism environmentcarrying capacity, tourism environmental quality and its assess-ment, tourism environmental protection, measures of environ-mental protection, tourism environmental case studies, and so on.

    Researchers have broadly discussed the concepts of the tourismenvironment with most of them viewing it as a composite systemcomposed of the natural and human environment. In examiningthe tourism impacts on the natural environment, researchers havebegun to realize that tourism development could improve theenvironment, while in the meantime, could also damage theenvironment if such development is not scientically based.Researchers have explored methods for tourism environmentalquality assessment and approaches to measure the tourism envi-ronment carrying capacity. Reinforcing the protection of thetourism environment is critical for the achievement of thesustainable tourism development. Scholars and researchers inmany elds, including planning, administration, economy, legisla-tion, education, and technology have proposed countermeasuresfor the protection and management of the tourism environment.

    With regard to research methods and technologies, methods ofqualitative description measurement and mathematical andstatistical analysis have been widely used in recent studies. Rela-tively, quantitative methods focusing on long-term monitoring andexperimental analysis are still scarce.

    After an examination of the shortcomings of studies on tourismenvironmental impacts in China, and taking consideration of newresearch trends, the authors of this paper would argue the futurestudy on tourism environmental impacts should focus on: evalua-tion of the impacts and benets of different types of infrastructure;examination of the quantitative relationship between the impactand the level of tourism use for different activities; quantication ofsite carrying capacities for major tourism activities and wildlifehabitats; understanding of the possible positive impacts of tourism;evaluation of the extent and degree of the gradual cumulativeincrease in impacts; expansion of research on the tourism impacton the social and cultural environment; and development andapplication of new methodology.

    In sum, an increasing number of studies on the tourism envi-ronment have been conducted in China. The study eld of tourismenvironment has become one of important branches of tourismresearch in the country. Thus, a systematic analysis of previousstudies and ndings is necessary and useful to direct future studiesin this emerging tourism study area in China.


    This workwas nancially supported by the Chinese National KeyTechnology R&D program in the 11th Five-Year Plan (Projectnumber: 2009BAH50B01-03), The Major Projects of the NationalSocial Science Foundation of China (Project number: 10zd&051)and Knowledge Innovation Program of Institute of GeographicalSciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS (Project number:200905005).


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    L. Zhong et al. / Journal of Environmental Management 92 (2011) 2972e2983 2983

    Research on environmental impacts of tourism in China: Progress and prospect1 Introduction2 Research progress in the tourism environment in China3 Definitions of the tourism environment4 Tourism impacts on the environment4.1 Biophysical environment4.1.1 Water environment4.1.2 Atmospheric environment4.1.3 Soil and soil erosion4.1.4 Flora and fauna4.1.5 Sound environment

    4.2 Socio-cultural environment

    5 Carrying capacity, quality assessment, and measures5.1 Tourism environmental carrying capacity5.2 Tourism environmental quality assessment5.3 Measures for the protection and management of tourism resources

    6 Research methods7 Research in China compared with elsewhere8 Conclusions and suggestions Acknowledgments References


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