How to be a responsible tourist in an ecologically vulnerable environment?



I’m headed to Joshua Tree next week. I always try to be aware of the environmental impact of my travel, but since the trees sustained some damage last month, I’m especially cognizant of it now. I’ll be staying on marked paths, of course, and trying to leave no trace, but I’m curious to hear about places where you’ve been particularly aware of the effect you’re having on an ecosystem, and what you did to mitigate it.


Oh , I’ve got lots of stories on this subject …

I wasn’t there as a tourist , but as a volunteer conservation scientist/ecologist I lived and worked in the Penalara National park in the Sierra de Guadarrama just outside of Madrid , we were studying the spread of the chytrid fungus on the local amphibians like salamanders , frogs and toads.

Chytrid is really bad news , it is causing the extinction of a lot of amphibian species worldwide and there were successive outbreaks in Penalara for decades. So we tried our best to work against the spread of the pathogen by taking measures to stick to certain paths , keep track of our movements and to disinfect shoes etc.

I remember how frustrating it was for us when we would see visitors to the park walking off the trail despite all the signs telling them not to. They could have been spreading the pathogens across the areas where we were trying to mitigate the spread and contain the effects , it felt like taking 10 steps forward and 10 back again.

With some of them , when we confronted them about this and tried to explain why they shouldnt we would have some very rude responses. There was even this time when I had to put myself between the head scientist who was about to loose his cool and this totally obnoxious Tio on a day trip from Madrid who was refusing to go back onto the trail , the scientist would have probably swung for him , he was so angry.