ID22: Glacier tourism in times of climate change: Past, present and future
Glacier tourism includes a large variety of outdoor activities and tourism practices in all seasons, with a wide bandwidth of infrastructure involved and considerably differing frequentation and economic impact. However, glacier tourism is a traditional, “compulsory” resource-based form of tourism in mountain areas that already experiences challenges related to climate change, which are expected to further increase in the future given global warming and glacier shrinkage scenarios. Therefore, it is crucial to assess how glacier recession is perceived by visitors and anticipated (or not) by operators. How will glacier destinations evolve (from demand and supply side) with diminishing or even no ice in some decades? Given this relevance, this session aims to review the current research on glacier tourism, to identify progress and existing knowledge gaps in the field and to identify future research paths and possible collaborations. This session addresses topics like stakeholder adaptation, visitor motivations, perceptions and experiences, destination evolution, and related questions.
Abstract ID 776 | Date: 2022-09-12 13:30 – 13:50 | Type: Oral Presentation | Place: SOWI – Lecture hall HS2 |
Sattler, Birgit (1); Weisleitner, Klemens (1); Schwenter, Patrick (1); Hirschvogel, Maria (1); Endres, Lukas (1); Unterberger, Seraphin (2)
1: University of Innsbruck, Institute of Ecology, Technikerstrasse 25, 6020 Innsbruck, Austria
2: University of Innsbruck, Material Technology Section, Technikerstrasse 13, 6020 Innsbruck, Austria
Keywords: Glacial Tourism, Microplastics, Geotextiles, Albedo, Change Of Strategy
Climate change is exerting an enormous pressure on winter tourism and in particular on skiing areas. All Tyrolean glacial skiing operators use geotextile covers made of polypropylene (PP) which are exposed in May until the end of summer to increase albedo. The overall covered area is now by more than 50ha. The mechanical benefit is obvious: More than 1,70 m in height can be preserved during one season which is crucial to maintain glacial skiing slopes as well as neuralgic spots and infrastructure over the year which must be secured. However, this previously promising and undoubtedly necessary measurement has turned out to be more of a spell after identification as a substantial source of microplastics (MP). Fibers are released from the matrix in the course of time and are distributed in the near vicinity as well as to more distant downstream habitats such as glacial rivers by atmospheric transport and meltwaters, respectively. In the summer season of 2021 we exposed geotextiles (PP) from May to September which resembles the current measures by the operators. After removing the fleece, on average 961 m of fibers total length have been detected in the weathering crust with a maximum cumulative length of 3.157 m. Control fields without coverage reveal ca. 6 m of cumulative fiber length. From a total number of 40 sampled cryoconite holes the presence of PP fibers could be verified for the entire sample set. Downstream sampling revealed fibers in running water, sediments and in association with invertebrates, e.g. Simulidae sp. PP filaments could affect invertebrates by blocking their gills or serving as useless nutrient particles in case of incorporation.
PP fibers are non-degradable but will be broken down to microplastics eventually. MP is known to be harmful not only for invertebrates but to all living organisms including humans. Microbial communities are prone to express increased numbers of antibiotic resistance genes when growing on MP as biofilm. Additionally, MP serves as vectors for potentially pathogen organisms, hence, there is a clear need to change strategies for glacial covering.
Just by 2022 the National Environment Agency of Austria released an Action Plan for microplastics stressing the need to search for alternatives which are ecologically friendly and sustainable. So far, this is a clear chance for science and tourism to cooperate in the quest for climate friendly solutions.
Abstract ID 254 | Date: 2022-09-12 13:50 – 14:10 | Type: Oral Presentation | Place: SOWI – Lecture hall HS2 |
Mayer, Marius (1); Abegg, Bruno (2)
1: Universität Innsbruck, Austria
2: Universität St. Gallen, Switzerland
Keywords: Glacier, Ski Tourism, Alps, Evolution, Climate Change
Mountain glaciers in the Alps are highly affected by climate change. One of the most important uses of Alpine glaciers is tourism in glacier ski areas (GSA) which should be strongly affected by climate change too. However, in contrast to glaciological monitoring, the socio-economic impact of climate change on GSA is largely undocumented. That said, the literature about GSA is relatively scarce and a comprehensive review is missing. Therefore, this contribution presents for the first time such a literature review as well as the spatio-temporal diffusion patterns of Alpine GSA along with their development paths.
The literature review is the result of extensive research in four languages (English, German, French and Italian) in a broad variety of sources. The diffusion patterns of Alpine GSA are identified through this extensive literature but also document analyses, supplemented by written and telephone interviews with operators and (former) employees, local experts and tourism historians. These information were transferred in a data base containing all GSA, their years and types of operation linked to ski lift infrastructure data compiled from several sources. GSA were grouped into adoptor categories and statistical analyses were performed.
The literature review reveals that GSA are mainly regarded from four perspectives: planning; economic, ecological and social aspects; demand; climate change impacts and adaptation.
The diffusion curve of Alpine GSA nearly takes an ideal S-shaped form as postulated by geographical diffusion theory, followed by a continuous decline since the mid-1980s, which is even stronger for the GSA offering summer ski. Statistical analyses show that the closed GSA are significantly smaller, less accessible, more focused on the actual glacier part of the ski area but not necessarily situated in lower altitudes. In general, GSA shift their seasonal focus to (extended) winter seasons with relatively few remaining SSA offering this USP.
Results indicate that there is no linear relationship between glacier shrinking and the development of GSA: Although summer skiing is highly affected by climate change, it also suffers from a shortage of demand and low rentability. How GSA cope with climate change depends on the operators' monetary and knowledge resources, their level of experience how to deal with and to adapt to these changing natural conditions. Empirical examples show that various development paths could be chosen by the operators. The impacts of climate change on GSA are also not only negative as snow reliability in winter might decrease even further in lower altitudes.
Abstract ID 472 | Date: 2022-09-12 14:10 – 14:30 | Type: Oral Presentation | Place: SOWI – Lecture hall HS2 |
University of Lausanne, Institute of Geography and Sustainability, Switzerland
Keywords: Glacier Tourism, Climate Change, Adaptation, Last Chance Tourism, Phd Results
Climate change has important consequences for the cryosphere on a global scale. Among other negative impacts, the reduction of the cryosphere has consequences for glacier tourism. In response to questions from both the academic world and stakeholders in this tourism niche, a PhD project was launched in 2018, with the aim of understanding how climate change impacts glacier tourism in the European Alps. The aim of this paper is to present the results of this PhD work, which was defended in December 2021. The different surveys conducted with visitors and operators and their results will be presented. Different questions are addressed: does glacier retreat lead to a change in the perception and aesthetic judgment of the landscape by visitors to the sites? Are last chance motivations visible? What geomorphological processes have consequences for tourism operators? How do they adapt? How have glacier fluctuations impacted the development of glacier tourism over the last 200 years? Do glaciers play a role as climate sentinels that can influence the pro-environmental behavioural intentions of visitors?
Abstract ID 567 | Date: 2022-09-12 14:30 – 14:50 | Type: Oral Presentation | Place: SOWI – Lecture hall HS2 |
Faculty of Environmetal Protection
Keywords: Mountaineering, Environmental Impacts, Mountain Communities, Sutainable Mountain Tourism, Gilgit Baltistan, Pakistan
High mountain regions are subject to rapid changes caused mainly by climate, but also by increasing tourism. The increasing presence of humans in vulnerable high mountain regions has negative impacts resulting from the increasing amount of waste and the prolonged presence of humans not only during the usual mountaineering seasons, but in recent years often also during the "low season". Mountain tourism represents an important economic source for local communities. Especially in the areas with the highest peaks (8000 m and above), the environmental condition is deteriorating due to mountaineering activities. Therefore, especially waste management is one of the measures that must be taken to ensure the future sustainable development of tourism in these areas. In parallel, soft measures should be introduced, mainly targeting the international mountaineering community to equip them with the knowledge on how to behave and act in line with the Leave No Trace principle.
Gilgit Baltistan is a part of Pakistan and meets mountain ranges like Krakorum, Himalayas and Hindu Kush. The area has always been a popular destination as it is home to five 8000m peaks, including the second highest mountain on earth – K2. In recent years, mountain sports have developed, focusing on so-called commercial expeditions to the highest peaks, but there are more and more expeditions to unexplored areas.
The Baltoro glacier is one of the most visited areas as the entrance to four eight-thousanders (K2, Broad Peak, Gasherbrum I and II) and has therefore been exposed to human presence for many decades. The negative impacts of humans can be observed in the broader Baltoro Glacier environment (on the glacier itself as well as on the slopes of surrounding mountains). A collaborative and sustainable waste management approach is needed to improve the situation and sustain it into the future. The same approach is needed in other areas of Gilgit Baltistan, especially in areas where mountain tourism is beginning.
The mountain communities in Gilgit Baltistan are (or want to be) closely linked to mountain tourism. Men from local settlements have been working as porters, sirdars, cooks, high porters, and more recently as guides and tourism agency workers for more than a century, making an important financial contribution to their families.