In the course of sustainability a balance of interdependent socio-economic and ecological issues especially in coastal zones is aspired. Applying the ecosystem services framework of the United Nation’s Millennium Ecosystem Assessment the tourism as an important economic factor is merged with the natural landscape in a human-environmental system. The holistic approach assumes that nature’s goods and services like supporting, provisioning, regulating and cultural services affect human well-being and recreation particularly on the Island Sylt. Among structural and functional components even sociocultural aspects are integrated and can be qualified and quantified by special indicators. Sylt is well-known as the island of the rich and the famous and has on the one hand a certain image of exclusivity, on the other hand a long tradition in wellness and medical tourism. Undisturbed and intact nature is the economic base for the development of the otherwise economically underdeveloped region of the Schleswig-Holstein North Sea Coast.
Using GIS the areas where touristic use is dominant were identified and the spatial impact of tourism in the relevant ecosystems can be mapped. Touristic activities are specific for each ecosystem and vary in their characteristic impairment. Resting and sunbathing on the beach and in the dunes are popular activities of tourists. Damaged flora and disturbed fauna are the result. Beside those activities, touristic infrastructure like buildings, paths and parking lots affect the ecology of the island. The influence of touristic activities in those affected areas is valued by assuming and corroborating hypothesises. Focal hypothesis of a given touristic influence is tested and validated by literature research and ecological specialists. A rather negative impact of tourism could be proven.