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Impacts of protected areas on regional sustainable development: the case of the Hohe Tauern national park (Austria)

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Protected areas are usually said to contribute to favourable ecological, social and economic development. As many protected areas are located in peripheral regions, sharing the benefits of biodiversity conservation with local residents is a major issue to reduce poverty and contribute to the livelihood of people. By considering demographic change, change of land use and economic structures, regional GDP growth and in particular, the tourism sector in the most prominent Austrian national park (Hohe Tauern), this paper argues that the impacts of protected areas are rather hard to prove. The results of this paper nevertheless show that in the long run, protected areas can contribute to regional sustainable development in terms of improving infrastructure, favourable structural change and benefits for the tourism industry, provided that national park policies are credibly enforced and thus, respect the ecological carrying capacity, and that potential conflicts between nature conservation and economic development are solved.

Keywords: regional sustainable development, demographic change, structural change, protected areas, national parks, regional sustainability dimensions, biodiversity conservation, local residents, land use, regional GDP, tourism industry, Austria, infrastructure, nature conservation, economic development

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