Spatial Covariance between Aesthetic Value & Other Ecosystem Services

Stefano Casalegno, Richard Inger, Caitlin DeSilvey, Kevin J. Gaston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

85 Citations (Scopus)


Mapping the spatial distribution of ecosystem goods and services represents a burgeoning field of research, although how different services covary with one another remains poorly understood. This is particularly true for the covariation of supporting, provisioning and regulating services with cultural services (the non-material benefits people gain from nature). This is largely because of challenges associated with the spatially specific quantification of cultural ecosystem services. We propose an innovative approach for evaluating a cultural service, the perceived aesthetic value of ecosystems, by quantifying geo-tagged digital photographs uploaded to social media resources. Our analysis proceeds from the premise that images will be captured by greater numbers of people in areas that are more highly valued for their aesthetic attributes. This approach was applied in Cornwall, UK, to carry out a spatial analysis of the covariation between ecosystem services: soil carbon stocks, agricultural production, and aesthetic value. Our findings suggest that online geo-tagged images provide an effective metric for mapping a key component of cultural ecosystem services. They also highlight the non-stationarity in the spatial relationships between patterns of ecosystem services.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere68437
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jun 2013
Externally publishedYes

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