The rapid expansion of tourism in Costa Rica came along with coastal development and infrastructure. This change generated considerable evidence of ecological disturbance mainly in coastal landscapes. The former coastal green belt composed out of mangrove forests was gradually replaced by tourism development in form of infrastructure or urbanization. This project emphasizes on the relation between tourism development and ecological functions from a landscape architecture point of view. Therefore, exploring design options directed towards establishing a symbiotic relation between coastal mangrove ecosystems and tourism is the main concern in this research project.
This relationship is endorsed by the multitude of ecosystem services provided by the mangroves.
The results of this research point out that sustainable tourism is possible just within the larger frame of sustainable land use assuring besides the recreational values implied by tourism practices as well protective and productive elements aimed at the wellbeing of the local communities.
These improvements are achieved with an ecological design approach aimed at restoring the coastal ecosystems and the functions these provided in the landscape while simultaneously providing a multitude of benefits to the local communities. Besides complying with the sustainable tourism guidelines (UNEP, WTO), this research is focusing on generating a spatial planning approach in coastal tourism landscapes affected by spatial pressure and subject to environmental impacts.
Therefore, the design strategy addresses in this thesis two main sections:
• interventions designed to provide the habitat dimension for mangrove restoration, with regard to hydrological dynamics (both tidal as well as inland water system) and the removal of physical barriers inhibiting this. The restoration strategy implies a holistic view of the landscape considering the whole landscape system and the connections established by the hydrological system, essential component of this research.
• interventions aimed at increasing the potential use of mangrove ecosystem services, like increasing the potential of fish nurseries, erosion control function and implementing a recreational infrastructure within the mangrove forest.
Combining these two components a mixed design strategy was elaborated, granting a strategic design approach to coastal tidal tourism landscapes.