The environmental and socio-political stakes of counting users within protected natural areas: an interdisciplinary study using interval photography

Main Article Content

Cécilia Claeys


This article offers a reflexive presentation of an interdisciplinary case study involving environmental sociology and marine biology. The creation of the Calanques National Park (April 2012), next to Marseille, the second largest city in France, has fuelled debate over the increasing impact of widespread leisure activities on the conservation of biodiversity. Given this, our research programme has developed visual interdisciplinary methods and critically analysed the notion of overuse. This paper presents a case study of Sormiou Bay, a natural anchorage site whose seabed is covered in a meadow of protected seagrass, Posidonia oceanica. Our research involved qualitative and quantitative field surveys and interval photography over a 19-month period, as well as the use of historical aerial photographs. Three main findings are presented here. First, our analysis reveals that a gap exists between actual and perceived levels of use, and this is exacerbated by a scale effect. Secondly, we point out the social and cultural factors, as well as the political context underpinning users’ discourse regarding (over)use of the Calanques. Lastly, we underscore the gap between the environmental awareness of boaters, their actual behaviour and their impact on Posidonia oceanica meadows.

Article Details

How to Cite
Claeys, C. (2018). The environmental and socio-political stakes of counting users within protected natural areas: an interdisciplinary study using interval photography. Visual Methodologies, 5(2), 8 - 20. Retrieved from
Special Issue: Environmental (In)visibilities (Guest Editor: Valentina Anzoise)


Bay, D., 1984. A field study of the growth dynamics and productivity of Posidonia oceanica (L.) Delile in Calvi Bay, Corsica. Aquatic Botany, 20, 43-64.
Becker, H. (1974). Photography and sociology. Studies in the Anthropology of visual communication, 1, 3-26.
Bessy, O. (2011). "Le Tourisme peut-il être durable ?". In. les développements durables, collections Questions ouvertes, CRDP Montpellier,102-108.
Boley, B.B. & Green, G.T. (2016), Ecotourism and natural resource conservation: the 'potential' for sustainable symbiotic relationship, Journal of Ecotourism, 15(1), 36-50.
Boudon, R. (1977). Effets pervers et ordre social, Paris, PUF.
Boudouresque, C.F., Bernard, G., Bonhomme, P., Charbonnel, E., Diviacco, G., Meinesz, A., Pergent, G., Pergent-Martini, C., Ruitton, S., Tunesi, L. (2012). Protection and conservation of Posidonia oceanica meadow. Authorized English translation of préservation et conservation des herbiers à Posidonia oceanica. RAMOGE pub., 2006. RAC/SPA, 1-202.
Boudouresque, C.F., Meinesz, A., Ribera, M.A., Ballesteros, E. (1995). Spread of the green alga Caulerpa taxifolia (Caulerpales, Chlorophyta) in the Mediterranean: possible consequences of a major ecological event. Scientia Marina, 59(suppl. 1), 21-29.
Boudouresque, C.F., Pergent, P., Pergent-Martini, C., Ruitton, S., Thibaut, T., Verlaque, M. (2015). The necromass of the Posidonia oceanica seagrass meadow: fate, role, ecosystem services and vulnerability. Hydrobiologia, DOI 10.1007/s10750-015-2333-y.
Brigand, L., Le Berre, S. (2007). Joint construction and appropriation of indicators by the users, the managers and the scientists: the example of the touristic frequentation observatory of Port-Cros and Porquerolles. International Journal of Sustainable Development, 10(1 & 2), 139-160.
Callicott, J.B. (2014). Thinking Like a Planet: The Land Ethic and the Earth Ethic. Oxford University Press.
Claeys, C., Barthélémy, C., Tatoni, T., Bonhomme, P. (2011). Protected Areas and Overuse in the Context of Socio-Natural Changes: An Interdisciplinary French Case Study. International Review of Social Research, 1(3), 73-92.
Cole, D.N. (1995). Wilderness management principles: Science, Logical Thinking or Personal Opinion? Trends, Wilderness Research, 32(1), 6-9.
Collier, J. & Collier, M. (1986). Visual anthropology: photography as a research method. Albuquerque. University of New Mexico Press.
Comte, A. (1936). Cours de philosophie positive, 1re et 2e leçon. Librairie Larousse (Ed).
Conord, S. (2002). Le choix de l'image en anthropologie: qu'est-ce qu'une "bonne" photographie?, 2, On line,
Das, M. & Chatterjee, B. (2015), Ecotourism: a panacea or a predicament? Tourism Management Perspectives, 14, 3-16.
Deldreve, V. & Deboudt, P. (2012). Le Parc national des Calanques. Construction territoriale, concertation et usages, Versailles. Quae.
Direction de la communication du MEDDE (2016).,1527-.html. Accessed 12 January 2016.
Dunlap, R. E., Van Liere, K., Mertig, A., Jones, R.E. (2000). Measuring endorsement of the New Ecological Paradigm: A Revised NEP Scale. Journal of Social Issues, 56(3), 425-442.
Dwight, R.H., Brinks, M.V., SharavanaKumar, G., Semenza, J.C. (2007). Beach attendance and bathing rates for Southern California beaches. Ocean and Coastal Management, 50,, 847-858.
Fennel, D.A. (2003). Ecotourism, Routledge, London and New York (second edition).
Filion, N. (2011), Compter le réel. Réflexions autour de l'observation quantitative », Terrains & travaux, 2 (19), 37-55.
Frachon, N. (2011). Vulnérabilité de l’herbier à Posidonia oceanica face à l’ancrage des bateaux de plaisances. Cas d’étude : calanque de Sormiou (Provence). Mémoire de Master 2 professionnel. Université de la Méditerranée, Centre d’Océanologie de Marseille, GIS Posidonie.
Francour, P., Le Direac'h, L. (1995). Le recrutement des poissons dans les herbiers à Posidonia oceanica: quels sont les facteurs influents? Actes du XXXIX° Congrès national de l’Association française de Limnologie, 67-78.
Ganteaume, A., Bonhomme, P., Bernard, G., Poulain, M., Boudouresque, C.F. (2005). Impact de l’ancrage des bateaux de plaisance sur la prairie à Posidonia oceanica dans le Parc national de Port-Cros (Méditerranée Nord-Occidentale). Scientific Report of Port-Cros national Park, 21, 147-162.
Ginelli, L., Marquet, V., Deldreve, V. (2014). Bien pratiquer la nature... pour protéger les Calanques ?, Ethnologie française 3 (44),525-536.
Goldstein, B.M. (2007). All photos lies: images as dat. In Stanczak G.C. (Ed.). Visual research methods. Image, society and representation, SAGE publications, 61-82.
Griffin, T., Moore, S.A., Crilley, G., Darcy, S., Schweinsberg, S. (2010). Protected Area Management. Collection and Use of Visitor Data. In Summary and Recommendations (Ed.), vol. 1. Sustainable Tourism CRC, Queensland, Australia.
Grize, J.B. (1982). De la logique à l'argumentation. Genève. Librairie Droz.
Harmelin-Vivien, M.L., Harmelin, J.G., Leboulleux, V. (1995). Microhabitat requirements for settlement of juvenile sparid fishes on Mediterranean rocky shores. Hydrobiologia, 300-301, 309-320.
Harper, D. (2002). Talking about pictures. Visual studies, 17(1), 13-26.
La Rocca, F. (2007). Introduction a la sociologie visuelle, Sociétés, 95(1), 33-40.
Larrère, C. (2010). Les éthiques environnementales. Natures Sciences Sociétés, 4(18), 405-413.
Laslaz, L., Gauchon, C., Duval, M., Heritier, S. dir. (2014). Les espaces protégés. Entre conflits et acceptation, Belin, coll. « Mappemonde », 432 p.
Lemahieu, A., Pennober, G., David, G., Lavigne, F., Pothin, K., Gérard, L. (2013). Élaboration d’un protocole de suivi de la fréquentation au sein de la Réserve naturelle marine de la Réunion, France, Océan Indien. VertigO - la revue électronique en sciences de l'environnement [Open source journal], 13(1).
Leriche, A., Pasqualini, V., Boudouresque, C.F., Bernard, G., Bonhomme, P., Clabaut, P., Denis, J. (2006). Spatial, temporal and structural variations of Posidonia oceanica seagrass meadow facing human activities. Aquatic Botany, 84(4), 287-293.
Light, A. & Rolston H. (2002). Environmental Ethics: Anthology, Wiley-Blackwell.
Manning, R. & Freimund, W. (2004). Use of Visual Research Methods to Measure Standards of Quality for Parks and Outdoor Recreation. Journal of Leisure Research, 36(4), 552-579.
Manning, R. & Lawson, S. (2002). Carrying Capacity as “Informed Judgement”: The Values of Science and the Science of Values. Environmental Management, 30, 157-168.
Manning, R. & Wang, B. (1998). Social Science in the National Park System: An Assessment of Visitor Information. Park Science, 18(1), 16-17.
Manning, R. (1997). Social Carrying Capacity of Parks and Outdoor Recreation Areas. Parks and Recreation, 32(10), 32-38.
Maresca, S. & Meyer, M. (2013). Précis de photographie à l’usage des sociologues, Rennes, Presses universitaires de Rennes.
Meur-Férec, C. (2007). Entre surfréquentation et sanctuarisation des espaces littoraux de nature. Espace géographique 2007/1 (Ed), Tome 36,pp. 41-50.
Milazzo M., Badalamenti F., Ceccherello G., Chemello R., 2004. Boat anchoring on Posidonia oceanica beds in a marine protected area (Italy, western Mediterranean): effect of anchor types in different anchoring stages. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 299, 51-62.
Mounet, J.P. (2007). Sports de nature, développement durable et controverse environnementale. Natures Sciences Sociétés, 162-166.
Nihal, E. & Güliz öztürk, A. (2010). Investigation of fragility to estimate tourism pressure. Journal of Coastal Research, Special Issue 61, 217-220.
Piette, A. (2007). Fondements épistémologiques de la photographie, Ethnologie française 1 (37), 23-28.
Robert, A. (1996). Essai sur le beau en photographie, Périgueux, Fanlac.
Stanczak, G.C. (Ed.) (2007). Visual research methods. Image, society and representation, SAGE publications.
Tatoni, T. (2013). Caractérisation de la fréquentation littorale et détermination d’indicateurs de vulnérabilité écologique pour définir des modes de gestion durable. Cas de la bande littorale du projet de Parc national des Calanques, Rapport final, APR LITEAU, MEDDT.
Terrados, J., Duarte, C.M. (2000). Experimental evidence of reduced particle resuspension within a seagrass (Posidonia oceanica L.) meadow. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 243, 45-53.
USDA Forest Service. (2011). Visitor use report. National Visitor Use Monitoring. Data collected FY 2005. USDA Forest Service.
Van den Born, R., Lenders, R. H. J., de Groot, W. T., Huijsman, E. (2001).The new biophilia: an exploration of visions of nature in Western countries. Environmental Conservation, 28 (1), 65-75.
Vega Fernandez, T., Milazzo, M., Badalamenti, F., D’Anna, G. (2005). Comparison of the fish assemblages associated with Posidonia oceanica after the partial loss and consequent fragmentation of the meadow. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 65, 645-653.
Vizzini, S., G., Sarà, R. H. Michener, Mazzola, A. (2002). The role and contribution of the seagrass Posidonia oceanica (L.) Delile organic matter for secundary consumers as revealed by carbon and nitrogen stable isotope analysis. Acta Oecologica, 23, 277-285.
Wagar, J.A. (1964). The Carrying Capacity of Wild Lands for Recreation. Forest Scicucc Monograph 7, Society of American Foresters, Washington. D.C.
Wearing, S. & Neil, J. (2011), Ecotourism, Impacts, potentials and possibilities, Taylor & Francis.
West, P. & Carrier, J.G. (2004), Ecotourism and authenticity getting away from it all? Current Anthropology, 45(4), 483-498.
Wong, P.P. (1993). Tourism vs. Environment: The Case for Coastal Areas, Springer.