Ecological carrying capacity assessment of diving site: A case study of Mabul Island, Malaysia

Li Ye Zhang, Shan Shan CHUNG*, Jianwen QIU

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


Despite considered a non-consumptive use of the marine environment, diving-related activities can cause damages to coral reefs. It is imminent to assess the maximum numbers of divers that can be accommodated by a diving site before it is subject to irreversible deterioration. This study aimed to assess the ecological carrying capacity of a diving site in Mabul Island, Malaysia. Photo-quadrat line transect method was used in the benthic survey. The ecological carrying capacity was assessed based on the relationship between the number of divers and the proportion of diver damaged hard corals in Mabul Island. The results indicated that the proportion of diver damaged hard corals occurred exponentially with increasing use. The ecological carrying capacity of Mabul Island is 15,600–16,800 divers per diving site per year at current levels of diver education and training with a quarterly threshold of 3900–4200 per site. Our calculation shows that management intervention (e.g. limiting diving) is justified at 8–14% of hard coral damage. In addition, the use of coral reef dominated diving sites should be managed according to their sensitivity to diver damage and the depth of the reefs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)253-259
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2016

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law

User-Defined Keywords

  • Coral reefs
  • Diving tourism
  • Ecological carrying capacity


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