20 Apr

Geographical Review Preview: The Role of Temperature and Air Quality in Outdoor Recreation Behavior: A Social-Ecological Systems Approach

By: Chris Zajchowski, Forrest South, Jeff Rose, and Eleanor Crofford

What is the main purpose of your study? 
To understand how temperature and air quality impacts outdoor recreation use on an urban trail system.

What are the practical, day to day, implications of your study? 
We learned stationary trail cameras combined with air quality monitors can show how variations in summer weather impacts outdoor recreational use on an urban-proximate trail network.

How does your study relate to other work on the subject?
Our study shows fewer hikers, bikers, and trail runners present once temperatures exceed 82 degrees Fahrenheit, which is consistent with other studies in similar geographies. Combined with other factors like humidity, this may indicate a thermal comfort threshold for outdoor recreation use. Additionally, we witnessed a negative relationship between both ozone and particulate matter indexes and outdoor recreation use, which mirrors findings in other environments.

What are two or three interesting findings that come from your study? 
Morning and evening use was highest, which may be explained by temperature or flexible work schedules. And, unrelated to the main research question, most dogs accompanying hikers and bikers were off-leash.

What might be some of the theoretical implications of this study? 
The weather-dependency of outdoor recreation use is supported by this work. Additionally, we further explored how air quality and temperature can be situated in social-ecological systems (SES) model, and particularly how outdoor recreation itself can be conceptualized as an SES.

How does your research help us think about Geography? 
Outdoor recreation is one mechanism through which people get to know particular environments. Our research demonstrates that many social and environmental factors influence participation in outdoor recreation. The question of what is and ought to be people’s relationship with the unbuilt natural world is one of the primary guiding philosophical questions in geography (Kates, 1987). Thus, our research contributes to a long line of geographers, philosophers, and social scientists who are trying to chip away at this foundational question.

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