Santarém F, Saarinen J, Brito JC



Deserts harbor unique natural and cultural heritage that is found nowhere else in the world. However, threats to these heritage resources are rising due to increasing levels of accessibility, human population and exploitation of natural resources. Thus, new alternative tools are needed to safeguard these fragile environments. In this respect, ecotourism has the potential to preserve the desert biome while supporting local cultures, traditional livelihoods and sustainable development. Deserts display many opportunities to promote ecotourism, such as unique biodiversity protected by large national parks and reserves, geological features, archeological and historical sites evidencing past cultures, and a great variety of ethnic groups and costumes. Still, protection of desert heritage is challenged in many countries due to low levels of security, development and political stability. Ecotourism generates a plethora of environmental, economic and socialcultural impacts that need to be considered when developing tourist activities in desert environments. However, ecotourism should not be envisaged as a panacea for all the challenging impacts that deserts are facing, but it can offer a sustainable tool to contribute positively to the wellbeing of people and communities living within deserts. Ultimately, desert ecotourism can contribute to the 2030 agenda of the United Nations for the Sustainable Development Goals and the conservation and management of desert heritage.



Journal: Reference Module in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences

DOI: 10.1016/B978-0-12-409548-9.11827-5