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Using crowdsourced imagery to detect cultural ecosystem services: a case study in South Wales, UK

Gianfranco Gliozzo, Extreme Citizen Science (ExCiteS) Research Group, University College London; Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London
Nathalie Pettorelli, Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London
Mordechai (Muki) Haklay, Extreme Citizen Science (ExCiteS) Research Group, University College London

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-08436-210306

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Abstract

Within ecological research and environmental management, there is currently a focus on demonstrating the links between human well-being and wildlife conservation. Within this framework, there is a clear interest in better understanding how and why people value certain places over others. We introduce a new method that measures cultural preferences by exploring the potential of multiple online georeferenced digital photograph collections. Using ecological and social considerations, our study contributes to the detection of places that provide cultural ecosystem services. The degree of appreciation of a specific place is derived from the number of people taking and sharing pictures of it. The sequence of decisions and actions taken to share a digital picture of a given place includes the effort to travel to the place, the willingness to take a picture, the decision to geolocate the picture, and the action of sharing it through the Internet. Hence, the social activity of sharing pictures leaves digital proxies of spatial preferences, with people sharing specific photos considering the depicted place not only “worth visiting” but also “worth sharing visually.” Using South Wales as a case study, we demonstrate how the proposed methodology can help identify key geographic features of high cultural value. These results highlight how the inclusion of geographical user-generated content, also known as volunteered geographic information, can be very effective in addressing some of the current priorities in conservation. Indeed, the detection of the most appreciated nonurban areas could be used for better prioritization, planning, and management.

Key words

crowdsourcing; cultural ecosystem services; environmental spaces detection; online imagery; social preferences; spatial analysis; volunteered geographic information (VGI)

Copyright © 2016 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087