Understanding human and nature interaction outcomes for sustaining tourist destinations: An example of Jiuzhaigou Nature Reserve, China

Guiping Deng, Lizhu Wang, Ya Tang, Yangdong Pan, Yong Cao, Zhongfu Zhu, Beixin Wang, Quanxi Wang, Wanting Pang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Studying interactions of coupled human-natural system components provides better understanding of their influences on ecosystem health and improves effectiveness of managing such systems. To understand how human-nature interactions determine the sustainability of tourist destinations, using Jiuzhaigou Nature Reserve as an example, we analyzed how human-nature interactions influenced the reserve’s ecological services extraction, environmental conditions, and corresponding management actions through a historical lens. We first developed a model that represented the components and their interactions under coupled human and natural systems framework. We then summarized such interactions and their resulted environmental conditions in a time sequence. Human activities have changed Jiuzhaigou system from largely human-nature balanced to partially degraded, and then to recovered and intensively managed system during the past six decades. Such changes resulted from human-nature interactions predominantly driven by overuse of natural resources, responded to by natural components in loss of ecosystem functions, and then responded by management actions to restore the functions. The increased nutrient and sediment, modified benthic communities, and decreased travertine (crystal substrate formed by the precipitation of carbonate minerals) indicate that tourism pressure in Jiuzhaigou under the current intensive management strategy has exceeded its carrying capacity. Much more aggressive environmental friendly tourism policies are needed to sustain this valuable tourist destination. Our findings based on coupled human-natural system framework analysis have important implications for sustaining natural resources and ecological services, and the governance of both for the management of nature reserves.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)373-384
Number of pages12
JournalAquatic Ecosystem Health and Management
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2020


  • coupled human and natural systems
  • ecological services
  • protected area
  • sustainability
  • tourism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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