07 March 2012

Recreation and Carbon Footprint

Problem: According to the United Nations Environmental Programme, CO2 emissions generated directly from the tourism sector account today for 5 per cent of global CO2 emissions. In many cases, especially in the ecotourism sector, tourists may believe their impact in minimal as they try to travel green. This misconception needs further exploration since ecotourism is often touted as a green alternative to conventional mass tourism when in fact, the impact may be spread over a larger natural area. The purpose of this poster presentation is to identity the environmental impact generated by a canoe race from both the participants and the observers.

Background: The Westfield River watershed is one of Massachusetts’ largest undeveloped land areas. Current climate observations for the Northeast US indicated conditions are warmer and wetter (USDA-FS). Projections for the 21st Century indicated a likely warmer condition while there is an uncertainty about precipitation. Given these data, research into the environmental impact is crucial and timely. The Carbon Footprint is one measure of the recreation impact of human activity related to leisure pursuits. Individuals are attracted to high quality natural environment and the direct and indirect impacts resulting from carbon emissions can deter from that experience. According to the World Tourism Organization changes in the availability of water, loss of natural habitats, reduced to the visual landscape, altered agricultural production, and other factors will all impact tourism as a result of climate change.

Methods: A pre and post inspection of the course highlights many of the bio-physical impact associated with the Annual Westfield Wild water Canoe Race, the oldest continuously run race in North America. The carbon impact will be calculated by impact survey conducted during the annual event.

Results: While individual carbon emissions from one paddling team may be modest, the combined contribution of the participants and observers increases the impact tremendously. For example, for an average automobile, approximately one half pound of carbon is emitted every mile of driving. As a result of this estimate the Carbon Footprint of the Westfield Wild water Race may exceed 10 tons of Carbon emissions! The survey will be executed during April 2012 and the carbon footprint will be calculated.

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