Using social media images to assess ecosystem services in a remote protected area in the Argentinean Andes
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Social media images are a novel source of data to assess how people view and value the environment. Access to these images is often free, the volume and spread of images is expanding rapidly and hence they are an increasingly valuable source of data complementing and expanding on other data. Recently, coding images has been used to assess sociocultural values relating to ecosystem services including those provided by national parks. To further explore the use of social media images, including for remote environments, we analysed the content of images posted to Flickr by people visiting a national park that contains the highest mountain in the southern hemisphere, Mt. Aconcagua, in Argentina, South America. The saliency of aesthetic landscapes, recreation, social relations and fresh-water provisioning was high across the 334 images posted to Flickr by 104 visitors to the Park, but location mattered. Images from visitors in easily accessible day-use areas were significantly more likely to include content that reflects biodiversity-existence, geology, culture and education services, while the content of images from remote areas was more likely to reflect social relations and fresh-water provision services. Comparisons of the content of images from Mt. Aconcagua with other studies in Europe, South America, Asia, Africa and Australia highlight similarities and differences in people’s views of the diversity of locations, but also the benefits and limitations of user-generated social media content when assessing environmental and management issues.
KeywordsAconcagua Provincial Park Content analysis Cultural ecosystem services Flickr Social media
We thank Ruben Massarelli and Dirección de Recursos Naturales Renovables, Mendoza for providing the visitor statistic data and GIS layers for Aconcagua Provincial Park and we thank Dr. Charles Lawson for his valuable inputs made to this manuscript. We also thank CONICET-Argentina for their support through the funded Short-Internship-Program (Pasantias Breves en el Exterior) and Griffith University for the Visiting-Fellow Position that made this collaborative-article possible. We also thank the funding provided by The Scientific and Technological Research Fund (FONCYT, PICT 2015-1455 and PICT 2017-1869).
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