Key lessons learned by teaching ecotourism to

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Applied Environmental Education & Communication

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Key lessons learned by teaching ecotourism to undergraduate students in Bogotá's urban wetlands Fernando Ramírez & Josefina C. Santana To cite this article: Fernando Ramírez & Josefina C. Santana (2018): Key lessons learned by teaching ecotourism to undergraduate students in Bogotá's urban wetlands, Applied Environmental Education & Communication, DOI: 10.1080/1533015X.2018.1454359 To link to this article:

Published online: 10 Apr 2018.

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APPLIED ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION & COMMUNICATION , VOL. , NO. , –./X..

Key lessons learned by teaching ecotourism to undergraduate students in Bogotá’s urban wetlands Fernando Ramíreza and Josefina C. Santana


a Independent Researcher, Bogotá, Colombia; b School of Communication, Universidad Panamericana, Guadalajara, Mexico


Education is a key aspect for wetland conservation. Educationbased research is urgently required in wetland ecosystems worldwide. International cooperation in research and sound ecotourism initiatives are key to promote wetland conservation on a global scale. In the current investigation, we explore key lessons that can be learned by teaching ecotourism in Santa María del Lago, Cordoba, and Guaymaral wetlands in Bogotá, Colombia. We focus on seven ecotourism-related components associated with environmental and educational aspects. We analyze these components and generate key lessons for teaching ecotourism in wetland ecosystems. These lessons can serve as an example for the creation of similar courses in other contexts.

Introduction Teaching is an important tool for the development of tourism, both as a scholarly endeavor and as a practical activity (Stergiou, Airey, & Riley, 2008). Ecotourism has the dual goal of educating the public about environmental protection while providing local benefits (Urias & Russo, 2009). Ideally, ecotourism should contribute to the four principles of sustainable development: economic, social, environmental, and political sustainability established by United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, UNESCO (2010). The UNESCO document on Education for Sustainability calls to integrate environmental topics into all educational programs, analyzing the causes of major social problems, such as poverty, hunger, inequality, and scarcity of natural resources (UNESCO, 2010). This document establishes key principles for education, grounded on four interdependent systems, including “biophysical systems which provide the life support systems for all life, human and non-human” (p. 8). In developing countries, wetland ecotourism could play an important role in alleviating some of their social problems, by generating economic, educational, CONTACT Fernando Ramírez [email protected] Independent Researcher, Bogotá, Colombia. Color versions of one or more of the figures in the article can be found online at ©  Taylor & Francis Group, LLC



environmental, and conservation opportunities for local communities. South America has a number of important wetland systems considered rich in biodiversity and commercially valuable for ecotourism (Junk, 2013). In the Pantanal – the largest wetland in Brazil– ecotourism is considered a viable alternative that is environmentally friendly and benefits the local community (Junk & Nunes De Cunha, 2005). In the Caripe high mountain wetlands at the Bolivian Altiplano, the community receives revenues from an ecotourism enterprise that charges an entrance fee (Gandarillas, Jiang, & Irvine, 2016). Similarly, several stakeholders consider ecotourism to be an important revenue source within the Abras de Mantequilla wetland in Ecuador (Arias-Hidalgo et al., 2013). Bogotá, Colombia is home to 15 Governmental recognized and 19 unrecognized wetlands located on the eastern cordillera of the Andes in the Bogotá savannah. These wetlands are considered important for biodiversity as they attract local and migratory birds and provide suitable habitat for resident species, including reptiles, mammals, and amphibians, as well as aquatic plants and invertebrates (Ramírez, Davenport, & Kallarackal, 2013). Ramírez & Fennell (2014) proposed a comprehensive framework for ecotourism and wetland restoration in Bogotá. The framework has four components, namely (1) wetland investigation and data collection, (2) STEEPLE analysis, (3) industry considerations, and (4) the composition of an integrated wetland use and protection plan (see Ramírez & Fennell, 2014). The aim of the current work is to describe key lessons that can be learned by teaching ecotourism in wetland ecosystems. We first focus on ecotourismrelated aspects of the Santa María del Lago, Córdoba, and Guaymaral wetlands (Fig. 1), and then we expand on lessons that can be applied to wetlands systems worldwide. Methodology Visits

Two visits to Santa María del Lago, Córdoba, and Guaymaral wetlands were carried out in 2013 (Fig. 1). These wetlands are located within Bogotá. The methodological basis for constructing the ecotourism course was the seven wetland-related components, which are mentioned below. The ecotourism course proposes general advice for constructing a syllabus that can be used in other areas by teachers who specialize in wetland environments. Each section comments on key lessons that can be effectively used by teachers with undergraduate students Objectives

r Develop key lessons that have been learned by teaching ecotourism in wetland environments.

r Characterize wetland biodiversity and cultural-related aspects linking them to ecotourism.



Figure . Location of the wetlands studied. Images by Fernando Ramírez. Reproduced with permission.

r Familiarize students with wetland environmental problems linking them to ecotourism.

r Identify key ecotourism educational components for wetland ecosystems. Contents

The course content is based on the seven key components related to wetlands: (1) infrastructure for ecotourism, (2) biodiversity, (3) cultural aspects, e.g., wetland history, (4) wetland management issues, (5) environmental education, (6) conservation and restoration, and (7) community involvement. Each component is analyzed by discussion and published research articles, such as Ramírez, Davenport, and Kallarackal (2013) and Ramírez & Fennell (2014).




We have provided terminology within the context of the wetlands studied to clarify each of the components of our work: 1) Infrastructure: permanent resources such as buildings, signage for identifying plant and animal species, inner paved tracks (inside the bounds of the wetland /within or around the wetland), garbage disposal, and fences, etc. found within the wetlands. 2) Biodiversity: animals, plants, and other living organisms that can be observed within the wetland environment. Includes native and introduced species. 3) Cultural aspects: the history of the wetlands from pre-Hispanic times to present day. Comprises human intervention and use. 4) Wetland management issues: All the actions performed by the Government to manage the wetland. This includes aquatic plant removal, removal of leaves from inner paved tracks, garbage removal, waste disposal, wildlife and water monitoring, wetland research. 5) Environmental education: As quoted in Stevenson, Brody, Dillon, & Wals (2014), environmental education is “a process of recognizing values and clarifying concepts in order to develop skills and attitudes necessary to understand the inter-relatedness among man, his culture, and his biophysical surroundings” (p. 1). 6) Conservation and restoration: All the measures that protect living things within the wetlands. 7) Community involvement: Citizen participation in wetland actions or decisions.

Skills and abilities

The course will allow student to develop critical thinking skills to analyze the context of wetland and ecotourism related topics. Students will recall prior knowledge related to (1) biodiversity aspects, (2) cultural aspects, (3) environmental issues, (4) ecotourism development, or possibilities for development, of the wetland environment. Each of these aspects needs supportive references from books, research articles, reports made by public and private organizations. In the case of wetlands elsewhere, the professor needs to choose carefully the material linking the seven key components for further analysis and discussion.

Results and discussion Infrastructure for ecotourism

The class is the basis for identifying key ecotourism developmental components. Discussions with students focus on foundational and planning ecotourism concepts, participant needs, inventories of attractions and resources (Fennell, 2002, 2008).



Figure . Santa Maria del Lago Wetland. (a) Fence, (b) inner paved track, (c) Fulica americana, (d) Podilymbus podiceps, and (e and f) aquatic plant community. Photos by Fernando Ramírez. Reproduced with permission.

The only wetland that has generated infrastructure is Santa Maria del Lago (see Fig. 2). This wetland park has built an inner paved track that surrounds its perimeter (Ramírez, Davenport, & Kallarackal, 2013) and signage to identify plant species. Córdoba wetland has a few billboards providing information on the plant and animal species. Its infrastructure is lacking or underdeveloped (see Fig. 3). The professor can provide examples of infrastructure in wetlands, such as mangroves and other wetland ecosystems (see TEEB, 2009). Table 1 provides an overview of the infrastructure available in each of the three wetlands. Key lessons

r The professor identifies the infrastructure established in the wetland ecosystem and provides a concise description of educational signage, currency exchange



Figure . Córdoba wetland. (a) Signage for identifying plants and animals, (b) community of Polygonum hydropiperoides and Bidens laevis, (c) Thypha latifolia (tall) and Bidens laevis (short) plants, and (d–e) inflowing polluted water. Photos by Fernando Ramírez. Reproduced with permission.


r r r

rates, transport systems, security, telecommunications systems, medical facilities, and access points (UNEP, 2014). Educational signage should have clearly written information about (1) plants, (2) animals, (3) general information, and (3) history of the wetland in English and Spanish. Information pertaining to animal and plant life should be thought provoking while describing uses and interesting facts. Ecological infrastructure is a key point for wetland ecotourism since it refers to cost-effective, long-term solutions to service delivery that can supplement, and at times substitute built-in infrastructure solutions (SANBI, 2014). Wetlands in developed countries have a well-established infrastructure. Developing countries often lack infrastructure.



Table . Infrastructure in Santa María del Lago, Córdoba, and Guaymaral. Infrastructure

Santa María del Lago

External fence

Present, made of metal about  m high (Fig. a). Present, this track is located within wetland’s perimeter (Fig. b). Administration building located at entrance Located at the entrance Located along the paved track Located along the paved track

Inner paved track Buildings Billboards Informational signage Garbage cans Signage for identifying plants and animals Seats Inner fence separating water from land

Located under trees or plant species. Near the entrance for animals Present along the paved track Present along the wetland’s perimeter



Present, made of metal about  m high Unpaved trails

Present, made of barbed wire Absent



Located at the entrance Absent Present, but a few in number Located near the water’s edge for animals and a few plants (Fig. a and b) Absent Absent

Absent Absent Absent Absent Absent Absent

r Infrastructure such as tracks and trails provides an entrance point for visitors. If unavailable, visitor entrance leads to wetland degradation by disturbance to plants and animals.

Biodiversity aspects

Local biodiversity is one of the key components of the visit. Biodiversity can be classified into animals, lichens, plants, and fungi of interest to ecotourists. This, in turn, provides an interesting teaching element for students learning about their uses and ecological importance (Table 1). Vertebrates within Santa María Wetland include three fish species including the locally known Guapucha (Grundulus bogotensis) found swimming among the floating plants along the water bank where it seeks shelter and feeds on invertebrates. There is also El Capitán (Eremophilus mutisii), a catfish species endemic to Bogota’s savannah (Ramírez, Davenport, & Kallarackal, 2013). This species has no ventral fins, feeds on other fish species, and grows up to 35 cm (Miles, 1947) making it a delicacy to fishermen. There is also one introduced gold fish species (Carassius auratus) (Ramírez, Davenport, & Kallarackal, 2013). Amphibians are represented by the endemic Andean frog Hyla labialis (Álvarez-León, 2009; Ramírez, Davenport, & Kallarackal, 2013). Three mammal species occur in the wetland, among them the introduced guinea pig Cavia porcellus (Álvarez-León, 2009; Ramírez, Davenport, & Kallarackal, 2013). This species can be found nibbling at the vegetation but is not easily spotted due to its timid behavior. Apart from wetland species, students identify common city birds such as Turdus fuscater and Zonotrichia capensis, among others. Vertebrates other than birds are also described to students when visible (Table 2). Birds in Córdoba Wetland are represented by 18 species (Rosselli & Stiles, 2012). Many trees such as Eucalyptus have been introduced in Córdoba and Guaymaral wetlands. Aquatic plants are easily spotted on the water’s edge in Guaymaral wetland (Fig. 4).



Table . Animal and plant life observed during our visit to the wetlands. Biodiversity

Santa María del Lago



Two species observed (Podilymbus podiceps and Fulica americana) (Fig. c and d) out of the  reported by Rosselli and Stiles ()

Four species observed out of the  reported by Rosselli and Stiles ()


None observed, but two present according to Álvarez-León () None observed Tadpoles observed, out of one species according to Álvarez-León () We observed Schoenoplectus californicus, Thypha latifolia, Bidens laevis, Azolla filiculoides, Polygonum hydropiperoides, Cyperus rufus, and Hydrocotyle ranunculoides (Fig. e and f) out of the  species reported by Pinilla () (Alnus acuminata), and Willow (Salix humboldtiana), etc.

None observed

Three species (Anas discors, Oxyura jamaicensis, and Fulica americana) observed (Fig. a and b) out of the  reported by Rosselli and Stiles () None observed

None observed Frog calls heard

None observed None observed

We observed Polygonum hydropiperoides, Cyperus rufus, Thypha latifolia, Bidens laevis, Hydrocotyle ranunculoides, Lemna sp. (Fig. c and d) out of the  aquatic plant species reported by Pinilla ()

We observed Polygonum hydropiperoides, Hydrocotyle ranunculoides, and Cyperus rufus (Fig. c and d)

The alder (Alnus acuminata), Caucho sabanero (Ficus soatensis), willow Salix humboldtiana, etc. Eucalyptus, Acacia, pines, and urapan (Fraxinus chinensis) One species observed

Passiflora sp., Fuchsia sp. and herbaceous plants of the compositae family

Mammals Amphibians Aquatic plants

Native trees/plants

Introduced trees/plants Lichens

Eucalyptus s., Acacia sp. and Fraxinus sp., etc. Grass, Pennisetum clandestinum One species observed


Eucalyptus sp. Grass, Pennisetum clandestinum None

Aquatic invertebrates are an important group in Santa María del Lago. Dipterans (mosquito larvae) are among the most abundant (Pinilla, 2010). Other aquatic invertebrates include bivalves (freshwater clams) and oligochaetes (worms) (Pinilla, 2010). Many of these invertebrates are important in the diet of wetland bids (for more information on the biodiversity of these wetlands, see Ramírez & Fennell, 2014; Ramírez, Davenport, & Kallarackal, 2013). Key lessons

r Identification of plants and animals within the wetlands is an important biodiversity component for ecotourism. This can lead to discussions about ecological importance of specific animals and plants within a given wetland ecosystem. r Birdwatching is an educational, student-centered experience. Students can use identification guides and equipment, e.g., binoculars and cameras. r Developing a perception of the uniqueness of wetlands in attraction, landscape, facility, image and services, helps differentiate them from the common natural and rural destinations (Pan, Cui, & Wu, 2010). r Identification of invasive vs. native species and possible implications for local biodiversity.



Figure . Guaymaral wetland. (a) Anas discors, (b) Oxyura jamaicensis, (c) plant community near water’s edge, (d) Hydrocotyle ranunculoides, (e) cattle tracks, and (f) livestock nearby. Photos by Fernando Ramírez. Reproduced with permission.

r Discussion of how the presence of tourists disturbs the wetland animals (See Higham, 2007).

r Discussion on the uses of wetland plants, e.g., medicinal, traditional, local, etc. Cultural aspects

Early indigenous people and Spanish conquerors were the first human groups to interact with the wetlands of Bogotá’s savannah. After centuries of urban establishment and growth, the original wetland area has been severely reduced from 50,000 ha in 1950 to the current 800 ha (Ramírez et al., Davenport, & Kallarackal, 2013). Early indigenous people included the Muiscas and Chibchas. The Muiscas were among the first to begin changing the landscape by building levees to cultivate crops. They built a series of dock-like structures or camellones – soil structures that emerged within the wetlands and were used for planting crops (Ramírez & Fennell, 2014). These levees changed the inflow and outflow from wetlands (see Ramírez & Fennell, 2014). Wetlands were used in extractive activities such as fishing of two endemic fish species, El Capitán (E. mutisii), and the Guapucha (G. bogotensis), freshwater crab extraction, and wood gathering around the wetland’s perimeter (DAMA, 2000). However, it is difficult to reconstruct the early history of the three



Table . Cultural aspects of the three wetlands. Period Pre-Hispanic history Spanish conquest Nineteenth century –s Current time s and s

Current size (ha) Dock-like structures or camellones built by indigenous people in  Early extractive activities by indigenous people () such as fishing and cops on dock-like structures, and wood gathering

Santa María del Lago



Indigenous cultures made channels and levees and managed the water (van der Hammen et al., ) Early , the savannah had the character of a wetland (Fjeldså, ) Land-use expansion increased/wetlands lost much of their original area Roads, highways and urbanization projects constructed, reduced, and fragmented Bogota’s wetlands (van der Hammen et al., ) Today, the total wetland area within the city is about  Ha (Pinilla, ) Much of its original land In the s, wetland was During the s, this has been used for used for agricultural wetland was divided housing and purposes for into two sections by commercial production of cattle, the Northern Highway. development corn and potatoes Currently most of the (Palacio & van der wetland has been Hammen, ) transformed into paddock landscapes . (Rosselli & Stiles, ) . (Rosselli & Stiles, . (Rosselli & Stiles, ) ) Possibly found within the Possibly found within the Possibly found within the wetland, not observed wetland, not observed wetland, not observed No data, more research required

No data, more research required

No data, more research required

wetlands mainly because the pre-Hispanic cultures left no reports and Spaniards were idle in documenting culture-related aspects. Table 3 describes key events in each historical period. Key lessons

r Identification of the past and present human groups linked to the wetland system provides a historical background for ecotourism.

r Establishment of current trends between community and wetland ecosystem. r Identification of the local community wetland interaction, including conservation groups or volunteers that seek to preserve the wetland.

r Local knowledge of wetland conservation and ways to use resources wisely. r Involvement of nongovernmental organizations with local communities provides thrust for ecotourism projects in wetland ecosystems. Wetland management aspects

Government intervention varies in the three wetlands (see Table 4). One of the bestpreserved wetlands is Santa María del Lago. Management practices include aquatic plant removal and landscape management (Ramírez, Davenport, & Kallarackal, 2013). The floating aquatic plants Azolla filicuoides are removed to allow light penetration, which enables microscopic algae and other organisms to survive.



Table . Management issues for the three wetlands. Management issues Aquatic-plant removal and landscape management Eutrophication (enrichment of water by nutrients/pollution) Garbage disposed Patrol system (guards) Management plan (document)

Management actions enacted Polluted and sewage inflow Solid waste dump

Livestock grazing/cattle tracks

Santa María de Lago



Performed on regular basis by administration

No actions taken

No actions taken

Intermediate state (Pinilla, )

No data available. High level of eutrophication observed

Best environmental state (Pinilla, )

Administration cleans garbage within wetland Guards patrol the wetland Proposed by Bogotá’s office (SDA) http://ambientebogota. Best management practices

No actions observed

No actions observed

No guards observed Proposed by the SDA in 

No guards observed Written and defined by Bogotá’s water company and Universidad Nacional de Colombia

Low level of management actions Polluted water enters through inflowing water channels (Fig. e and f) Solid waste dumped near water’s edge in some portions of the wetland

No management actions

Not observed

Observed near the water’s edge (Fig. e and f)

None, the wetland is a closed system Not observed/administration manages waste efficiently Not observed

Polluted water enters form North Highway. Possible sewage pollution Not observed

Excessive aquatic plant growth covering the entire wetland would result in reduced light penetration causing a reduction in photosynthesis by microalgae and, in turn, reduced oxygen levels affecting fish and other organisms. To date, there are no invasive aquatic plants causing environmental problems. Most of the aquatic plants are commonly found in wetlands throughout the Andes. Introduced species of land plants include the invasive species kikuyu grass, Pennisetum clandestinum, originally an African grass introduced into the wetlands. It grows excessively near the water’s edge competing with aquatic plants. In contrast to Santa María del Lago, there is little to negligible management in the Córdoba or Guaymaral wetlands, respectively. Class discussion is based on the comparison of management practices or lack of these and how government actions have failed in the past and continue to be inconsistent. Removal of invasive plant and animal species can be discussed for other wetlands worldwide.

Key lessons

r Education is a key aspect for wetland management practices. r Management techniques differ depending on target species, coastal vs. interior wetlands, and available infrastructure, resources, and management objectives (Gray, Hagy, Nyman, & Stafford, 2013).



Table . Environmental education. Teacher roles

Learner roles

Provide a context for student experience

Experience wetlands

Guide students with questions and discussion topics Provide appropriate time and space to reflect Guide students to connect learning with prior knowledge and with their lives Create a safe atmosphere conducive to learning and sharing Choose materials carefully

Apply critical thinking Reflect upon learning

Materials Should link seven components of wetlands Should lead to discussion and analysis Offer supportive references

Make connections and personalize knowledge Participate actively (e.g., bird watching) Construct own knowledge through enquiry

Apply McKeown-Ice and Dendinger’s () framework (see below) Source: Adapted from Gilbertson () and Sukhontapatipak and Srikosamatara ().

r Managing wetlands effectively for wildlife requires knowledge of wetland processes, plant and animal life histories, and habitat management techniques (Gray, Hagy, Nyman, & Stafford, 2013). r Managing wetlands requires: (1) basic research determining the state of the wetlands, (2) monitoring water parameters to determine possible sources of pollution, (3) replacement of introduced terrestrial wetland plant species by native counterparts, (4) identification of invasive species and methods to remove them from the wetlands, and (5) population assessment of local vertebrates, invertebrates, and plants. r Management practices shared with local people strengthen the bond between nature conservancy and people’s interests.

Environmental education

Environmental education is a tool for reducing the impact of over-exploitation of natural resources (Tilbury & Wortman, 2004). Environmental education takes on particular importance in the case of undergraduates. Because of their education, they will become the elite group of future employees in science, culture, and technology, organizers of economic life, educators of youth (Tarabuła-Fiertak, Gaju´sLankamer, & Wójcik, 2004), ecotourism entrepreneurs, and researchers. Environmental education can be linked to wetland environmental issues and ecotourism. Through environmental education, students construct their knowledge of wetlands and ecological views through enquiry and direct experience in the field (see Table 5) (Sukhontapatipak & Srikosamatara, 2012).

Key lessons

r Implementation of a comprehensive ecotourism educational experience according to Weaver (2005), which adopts a holistic and global approach to



Table . Conservation restoration and community involvement within the three wetland systems. Actions

Santa María del Lago

Reforestation with native plants and trees Sewage removal connector system

Observed within the wetland. Reforestation by SDA and local community Performed by Governmental institutions and the local community

Environmental laws

Environmental Management Plan; Law (Resolución  of ). Wetlands as ecological parks (Law /) of  People observed walking around wetland; other uses: jogging, running, photography, meditation None, patrolled by guards

Use by local community Illicit uses

r r r r



No actions observed

No actions observed

None. Serious problems by entrance of a series of channels that input sewage-rich waters Wetlands as ecological parks (Law /) of 


People observed in activities such as biking, running, and jogging People use illicit substances within the wetlands


Wetlands as ecological parks (Law /) of 


attractions and interpretation that fosters environmental enhancement, deep understanding, and transformation of behavior. Opportunities to observe animals and animal behavior at close range in a natural environment, i.e., wetlands, connects with the students’ prior knowledge (Ballantyne & Packer, 2011). On-site experience will have a positive effect on satisfaction and contribute to short-term, pro-environmental learning outcomes (Ballantyne & Packer, 2011). Environmental education can be explored by indicating wetland environmental problems and their possible solutions. Application of McKeown-Ice and Dendinger’s (2009) framework for appropriate teaching, learning, and assessing environmental issues. The framework includes concepts such as causes, scale, spatial distribution, longevity, consequences, risks, economic implications, solutions, obstacles, social values, stakeholders, political status, behavior changes, and personal actions.

Conservation and restoration

The tourism industry has understood the need to minimize its environmental impact (Ballantyne & Packer, 2011). The goal of ecotourism is to achieve biological conservation using tourism as an economic incentive to involve local communities (Brandon & Margoluis, 1996). Conservation actions have been conducted at Santa María del Lago. These actions involve reforestation with native plant species. However, some exotic species, e.g., orchids, have been planted. The discussion is centered on determining the possible impact exerted by invasive species. Conservation and restoration actions have not been implemented in Córdoba or Guaymaral, but are urgently needed (Table 6). Ecotourism would be a key factor to attract interest from



investors, the public, and academics for conservation and restoration measures to occur.

Key lessons

r Conservation and restoration initiatives require exchange of information and practical experience (Lukacs, 2010).

r Follow the recommendations for tropical research of Bawa, Kress, Nadkarni,

r r r


and Lele (2004), which include establishing field stations, connecting with biologists around the world, and fostering interactions between tropical biologists, social scientists and policy makers. Sensitize students to recognize ecosystems as a valuable resource requiring practical management tools to take advantage of them without threatening their sustainability (Mitsch et al., 2008). Include wetlands conservation in the curriculum of the ecotourism course. View wetlands conservation through a volunteer program in tourism or ecotourism, such as volunteer tourism, where tourists provide funds and labor for conservation projects developed by scientists (Brightsmith, Stronza, & Holle, 2008). Conservation biology can provide benefits to local communities and support for protected areas based on scientific knowledge (Fennell & Weaver, 2005).

Community involvement

Local participation refers not only to the reception of benefits from local tourism; it requires involvement in decision making, as well (Garrod, 2003). Ecotourism can provide economic benefits without sacrificing or destroying local resources (Stem, Lassoie, Lee, Deshler, & Schelhas, 2003). Local community participation in the decision-making process at Santa María del Lago led to the building of the sewage removal connector system. This system collects the incoming sewage water and diverts it into the city’s sewer system (Ramírez, Davenport, & Kallarackal, 2013). Much more is required for the involvement of the community in ecotourism development. To date, the community at Santa María uses the wetland as a place to appreciate nature attracted by wildlife, and local universities take advantage of it as a learning resource. The discussion on community involvement is difficult to determine, due to the low number of investigations that have been generated. However, the ecotourism course is a point of departure for possible ecotourism initiatives and as a tool to motivate undergraduates. Many of the most important issues in Bogotá’s wetlands are sociocultural in nature, linked to poverty and insecurity. This is perhaps a function of the absence of an emotional connection to wetlands, which in turn means that local people do not feel the need to assist in their rehabilitation (Ramírez & Fennell, 2014). The absence of emotional connection to wetlands is evidenced by the lack of interest



and responsibility, and indifference toward ecology and biodiversity aspects by the local community of Santa María del Lago wetland (Ramírez & Fennell, 2014). Key aspects

r Ecotourism can be an alternative to environmentally destructive practices. r Ecotourism can provide economic benefits for the local community through employment opportunities, e.g., local guides, and thus aid in conservation aspects by making people more aware of wetland conservation. r Community wetland ecotourism can lead to biodiversity and cultural background conservation. r Educating the local community provides a strong thrust for wetland conservation. r Emotional connection to wetlands provides a background for education and conservation. Conclusion No one has developed a reliable ecotourism program for any of the wetlands. Biodiversity aspects are a starting point for the ecotourism class. Key elements in the ecotourism course were bird watching activities and plant observation. The comparison of management, restoration, conservation, environmental issues, and community involvement among wetlands provided an opportunity to determine ecotourism attributes and possibilities for developing ecotourism. This article describes an opportunity for teaching an ecotourism class in Bogotá’s wetlands. Similar methods for teaching ecotourism in wetland ecosystems can be applied worldwide. Professors and researchers need to focus on specific biodiversity, cultural and environmental aspects of the wetlands of interest. This article provides an analysis of seven ecotourism-related components of wetlands. Likewise, these topics can be analyzed in the context of other wetlands worldwide. The context of the course and wetland ecosystem conditions plays an important part in selecting suitable parameters for a coherent class discussion. The course provides an opportunity to motivate students in the study of wetland ecotourism. The students’ attitude, interest, emotional connection to wetlands, and knowledge of general aspects of ecotourism are elements to be considered when conducting an ecotourism class. Although none of the wetlands in our study has a reliable ecotourism program, we encourage researchers, professors, and students to explore and provide more information on how to include wetland ecotourism into their universities, programs, or as an interesting research area. Developing key lesson for teaching ecotourism provides an example of how education is the basis for integrating environmental aspects and ecotourism. Educationbased research is urgently required in wetland ecosystems worldwide. There are a few examples in the literature about the link between education and wetlands from



an educator’s perspective. We feel this article will motivate research initiatives that lead to effective conservation, restoration, and development of ecotourism programs for the local as well as the international community. Limitations of the current study include a focus on three wetlands in one particular area of the world. At the same, we found there is a lack of research in biodiversity, conservation, restoration, community involvement, environmental issues, management, and environmental education in all wetlands studied. More research in each of these fields is needed to obtain a better understanding of ecotourism in wetland environments. Furthermore, international cooperation in research and sound ecotourism initiatives are key to promote wetland conservation on a global scale. Thus, the next step is to promote research that focuses on fundamental aspects of ecotourism in wetland environments among international partners and research funding organizations. Acknowledgments The authors are thankful to L. Marien for her valuable support and to J. Miller for her suggestions.

ORCID Josefina C. Santana

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