Application of multi-criteria evaluation and GIS to ecotourism planning in protected areas (Case study: MianKaleh wildlife refuge)

Document Type : Research Paper



Ecotourism is based on environmental potential and presents an opportunity for suitable utilization and conservation of the sites under management practices, considering accurate planning, potential of the area and people preferences. The present study is conducted to evaluate the ecotourism potential in MianKaleh wildlife refuge. The area is located south of the Caspian Sea. After defining the recreational activities and people priorities, we used Multi Criteria Evaluation for assessing the ecotourism potential. The approach included 5 steps: objective determination, criteria definition, standardization of criteria, assigning weights to the criteria using the analytical hierarchical process and finally criteria combination using Weighted Linear Combination method. Results show the area has potential for boating as the highest with 32879.7 hectares and camping has the lowest potential with only 353.88 hectares. Water depth and distance to shore were found to be the most affective in suitability mapping for boating,. Also, the most effective factors for camping were distance to access routes and water sources, so the suitability map mostly reflected these factors. Other uses in order of potential are swimming (21665.5), viewing scenery (3375.63), bird watching (1075), and horse riding (444.69). The final areas for each activity is changeable due to the competition of these in a multi objective land allocation. Overall, the results revealed that MCE method is capable of evaluation of wildlife refuge for various recreational activities. Also, the geographical information system was found a useful tool, allowing combination of many factors and Boolean layers. The system also can act as a decision support tool, letting stakeholders change weights and standardization within the accepted ecological thresholds and arrive at a consensus on the final results in an iterative process