carrying capacity, LACs and economic values paper

Spurgeon, James James.Spurgeon at
Sun Feb 9 14:14:54 EST 2003

Dear Pedro and listers

The visitor "carrying capacity" of a coral reef is a function of the
following factors:

·Number of people entering the water
·*Means of accessing the water (anchoring, shoreline, boardwalks etc)
·*Activity they undertake (diving, snorkelling, with gloves etc)
·*Visitor experience, training and education
·*Management tools (fines, visitor facilities, restricting access etc)
·Natural physical conditions (depth, topography, currents, waves, etc)
·Type of corals (form and fragility)
·*Extent of other stresses (wastewater, sea temperature etc)
·*Levels of acceptable change (extent of acceptable coral cover etc)

Consequently, reef carrying capacities will differ enormously (and Duncan's
point is certainly valid).  However, for management purposes,
generalizations could be made for several different categories of reef.

Furthermore, because several factors* can be modified, carrying capacity at
any site can be changed significantly. Note that in the Galapagos Islands, a
maximum carrying capacity of 20,000 visitors per year was set in 1985.
Currently, over 65,000 people visit each year.  Through various management
measures, associated visitor damage is minor, especially compared to other
stresses (e.g. introduction of domestic animals).

I've not seen Jamie Oliver's paper, but "limits of acceptable change" is a
great concept if you are confident of the cause-effect relationships.  This
is more the case for terrestrial systems than marine.  LAC also requires
legislation and management controls strong and flexible enough to allow
effective and timely changes in management.

Controlling visitor numbers also does significantly affect potential
economic, financial and social benefits. For many asscociated reasons it
will be better to build up capacity cautiously over time!

All these issues are being explored in some current/proposed research:
Spurgeon, J. (in prep) "Maximizing benefits and revenues from coral reef
management", hopefully culminating in a paper to be presented in Japan.  In
the near future I'll be looking for partial funding and additional materials
to draw upon.  Offers for either would be greatly appreciated!

In addition to those who requested it a while ago, anyone wanting a pdf copy
of Spurgeon J. (2001) "Economic Value of Coral Reefs: The Next Ten Years",
let me know.

James Spurgeon
Executive Environmental Economist/Scientist

Jacobs (formerly JacobsGIBB)
Tel: +44 (0)118 963 5346
Fax: +44 (0)118 926 3888
E-mail: james.spurgeon at

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