Social carrying capacity: An integration and synthesis of twenty years of research

Alan R. Graefe, Jerry J. Vaske, Fred R. Kuss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

138 Scopus citations


This paper reviews research conducted over the past twenty years related to social carrying capacity. Pursuant to existing definitions, the scope of this review extends beyond most individual studies to include the broad range of variables which influence how people perceive quality in a recreation experience. Emphasis is placed on integrating this diverse literature within a conceptual framework which helps to explain the diversity and complexity inherent in visitors’ experience evaluations. This framework builds upon a basic understanding of recreationists’ motivations and identifies an interrelated set of impacts resulting from increasing use levels. The paper then summarizes results of previous studies regarding: (1) relationships between the various impact parameters and recreational use levels, and (2) individual, activity, and site factors affecting use/impact relationships. Implementation of social carrying capacity is also examined, with emphasis on integrating scientific information and critical management judgments relative to the objectives of a given area.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)395-431
Number of pages37
JournalLeisure Sciences
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1 1984

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management


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