Population Size

Population size refers to the number and distribution of people living in a coastal country or, for certain goals, within specified distances from its shore. For various purposes, the Ocean Health Index utilized data on total population or on population within 80 km (50 mi), 50 km or 10 km of the coast. 

Which Goals Does This Affect?

How Was It Measured?

For the Tourism & Recreation goal, the Ocean Health Index assumed that tourists generally distribute themselves within a country proportional to where the local populations are. International arrivals and tourist days per stay along an 80 km (50 mi) coastal band were distributed in proportion to the distribution of local populations. The ratio of tourists to local population served as an indication of the potential intensity of environmental and social impacts.

Presuming that tourism should scale to local population size created some difficulties, because very populous countries that have modest to high absolute levels of tourism (e.g. US, China, India, Brazil) received extremely low Status scores for this goal. Without a true production function for what comprises sustainable levels of tourism in each country, any simplified model, such as the one used in this instance, will produce anomalous results. Additional global information on how infrastructure, economics, political stability and other factors that determine tourist distribution could potentially improve the model for calculating the score for this goal.

Estimation of the Pathogens component for the Clean Waters goal used the ratio of coastal human population within 50 km of the coast divided by the percentage of the population with access to improved sanitation. Estimation of the Trash component for this goal used population within 80 km (50 mi) of the coast.

Estimation of the Pressure for Habitat Destruction: Intertidal used data on the human population within 10 km of shore.

What Are The Impacts?

Proper planning and management measures are crucial when there are increased numbers of visitors to a sparsely populated destination point. There can be negative repercussions if the given area and facilities cannot accommodate the increase in population size. These can include the destruction of coastal habitats during development, overfishing, and increased erosion, runoff and pollutant discharge. Well-managed tourism levels can promote the preservation of natural resources as well as induce increased environmental awareness and education.

Overcrowding at tourist destinations can add pressure and stress to local populations and waste treatment systems.

Tourists can introduce disease organisms or transport them to other locations.

Tourists may influence local culture and traditional lifestyles (e.g. attire, consumption habits).
Population size and distribution in relationship to space and resources is fundamentally important to nearly every aspect of social, economic and political life, as well as the quality of natural environments. Population increase, whether from reproduction, migration or tourism can bring economic benefit, but may also bring substantial costs if social, economic, infrastructural and regulatory systems cannot adapt quickly enough.  


PHOTO(S): © Keith A. Ellenbogen
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