A review of digitalization and sustainability in parks and recreation indicators and thresholds research

Elizabeth E. Perry, Xiao Xiao, Tatiana A. Iretskaia, Peizhe Li, Robert E. Manning, William A. Valliere, Nathan P. Reigner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Park and recreation researchers have integrated digitalization into visitor use assessments, aiming to provide managers with information to assist with decision-making and sustainability goals. Applying a management framework of objectives, indicators, and thresholds of quality guided by normative theory, researchers have explored how to define and manage sustainability in park and recreation settings since the 1960s. Digitalized presentations of indicators are more recent (1990s) and continue to advance this framework. A review of the contributions and transferability of these digitalized methods and contexts is necessary, considering both the increasing popularity of its application across parks, recreation, and tourism management and its potential to incorporate sustainability measures. We conducted a related systematic literature review, synthesizing 91 qualifying peer-reviewed articles sourced from thousands examined. In particular, we examined elements of context, digitalization, and sustainability. We found that the method has broadly advanced measuring indicators through varied application of visual, aural, and simulated conditions. However, results indicate that researchers have applied digitalization of indicators most often through research question-focused case study, in U.S. national parks, for social indicators and particularly “people at one time,” and without reference to monitoring. These constraints may limit the method's contributions toward sustainability. Digitalization facilitates sustainable park and recreation management by expanding the indicators examined and corresponding methods used and offers sustainable management strategies for concerns established and emergent. This systematic literature review can help enhance the robustness of this management framework and its transferability to the global context. Management implications: Results from this investigation suggest that although park and recreation management agencies’ objectives are often broadly focused on sustainability, and visitor use and perceptions studies also focus on this general goal, this connection is not explicitly detailed in the majority of the sources examined. This provides opportunity for managers and researchers to discuss these connections further and ensure that practices related to sustainability (such as monitoring plans) are included across communications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100550
JournalJournal of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism
StatePublished - Sep 2022


  • Indicators
  • National parks
  • Standards
  • Systematic literature review
  • Thresholds
  • Visitor use management

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management


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