Publication Date

Summer 2019

Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Leslie North (Director), Jason Polk, David Keeling, Edward Huijbens

Degree Program

Department of Geography and Geology

Degree Type

Master of Science


Tourism in cold and cool-climate regions is largely characterized by recreational and sightseeing activities at water-based natural attractions such as beaches, coastal cliffs, and waterfalls. While the economic benefits of the tourism industry can contribute to a sustainable future for these regions, the environmental implications of a hastilydeveloped industry cannot be ignored given that cold-climate and cool-climate landscapes are at risk of rapid environmental change from a warming climate and other environmental concerns. This study consisted of the development of the Tourism Impact Index for Water-Based Natural Sites, the first of its kind, and its application and refinement in the field at various water-based natural tourism sites in Iceland and the Washington Olympic Peninsula. As no direct precedent for the index exists, the creation of the initial index draft was informed by other environmental indices available from the literature in related disciplines. The index contains 44 visually-assessed indicators, each scored on a scale of zero to three regarding potential severity of environmental impact. As the index was applied throughout the two study regions, improvements were incorporated into the design so as to create a well-validated product that may be shared with tourism managers and developers and with researchers to aid in the continued expansion of literature on tourism-environment interactions.


Environmental Health and Protection | Environmental Indicators and Impact Assessment | Geomorphology | Physical and Environmental Geography | Tourism