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Spatial patterns of cultural ecosystem services provision in Southern Patagonia



Although there is a need to develop a spatially explicit methodological approach that addresses the social importance of cultural ecosystem services for regional planning, few studies have analysed the spatial distribution on the cultural ecosystem services based on social perceptions.


The main objective of this study was to identify cultural ecosystem service hot-spots, and factors that characterize such hot-spots and define the spatial associations between cultural ecosystem services in Southern Patagonia (Argentina).


The study was carried out in Southern Patagonia (243.9 thousand km2) located between 46° and 55° SL with the Andes mountains on the western fringe and the Atlantic Ocean on the eastern fringe of the study area. The study region has a range of different vegetation types (grasslands, shrub-lands, peat-lands and forests) though the cold arid steppe is the main vegetation type. We used geo-tagged digital images that local people and visitors posted in the Panoramio web platform to identify hot-spots of four cultural ecosystem services (aesthetic value, existence value, recreation and local identity) and relate these hot-spots with social and biophysical landscape features.


Aesthetic value was the main cultural service tagged by people, followed by the existence value for biodiversity conservation, followed by local identity and then recreational activity. The spatial distribution of these cultural ecosystem services are associated with different social and biophysical characteristics, such as the presence of water bodies, vegetation types, marine and terrestrial fauna, protected areas, urbanization, accessibility and tourism offer. The most important factors are the presence of water in Santa Cruz and tourism offer in Tierra del Fuego.


Our results demonstrate that this methodology is useful for assessing cultural ecosystem services at the regional scale, especially in areas with low data availability and field accessibility, such as Southern Patagonia. We also identify new research challenges that can be addressed in cultural ecosystem services research through the use of this method.

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We thank to Santiago Sosa Lovato for laboratory work, Breton Ladd for the English review, and reviewers and assigned editor for their suggestions that have significantly improved the paper. This research was supported by ‘Operationalisation of ecosystem services and natural capital: From concepts to real-world applications’ (OpenNESS) project financed under the European Commission’s Seventh Framework Programme (Project Number 308428). MGL was funded by a  grant from the Spanish National Institute for Agriculture and Food Research and Technology (INIA) for PhD researchers which is co-funded by the Social European Fund.

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Correspondence to Berta Martín-López.

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Martínez Pastur, G., Peri, P.L., Lencinas, M.V. et al. Spatial patterns of cultural ecosystem services provision in Southern Patagonia. Landscape Ecol 31, 383–399 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10980-015-0254-9

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  • Landscape pictures
  • Spatial distribution
  • Social perceptions
  • Aesthetic value
  • Existence value
  • Local identity
  • Recreation