A Model-Based Approach to Study the Tourism Sustainability in an Island Environment: The Case of Galapagos Islands

  • Paola A. Espin
  • Carlos F. Mena
  • Francesco Pizzitutti
Part of the Social and Ecological Interactions in the Galapagos Islands book series (SESGI)


Biodiversity of island ecosystems has made them very attractive to develop tourism activities. Nature tourism is considered a potential sustainable economic opportunity that could encourage environmental protection while improving local livelihoods. Nevertheless, given the complexity of social and ecological multi-scale interactions, a systemic assessment of the implications of tourism on island’s sustainability deserves a holistic perspective to assure that social and ecological goals are reached given the irreversibility that some impacts have on islands habitats with high natural values. This research develops a system dynamics model-based approach to understand and assess the dynamics of tourism sustainability in island ecosystems taking as a case study the Galapagos Islands. The modeling approach provides valuable insights into the mechanisms through which tourism influences and is influenced by demographic dynamics and exerts social and ecological pressures on the Islands. The relevance of scale in the tourism activity is highlighted given that the major constraints to improve social and environmental goals were associated with tourism and population growth. This study presents a significant attempt to build a model useful to study tourism strategies taking into account the complexities to improve tourism sustainability in island’s ecosystems arising from strong reinforcing and balancing feedback. Further research may look at strengthening the model-based approach to capture the perspective of relevant stakeholders, particularly with regard to the indicators to assess tourism sustainability.


Coupled humans and natural systems Complexity Island ecosystems Tourism destination Sustainability assessment System dynamics 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paola A. Espin
    • 1
  • Carlos F. Mena
    • 1
  • Francesco Pizzitutti
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Biological and Environmental SciencesUniversidad San Francisco de Quito, Ecuador and Galapagos Science CenterSan Cristobal IslandEcuador
  2. 2.Duke UniversityDurhamUSA

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