Geolocated social media data counts as a proxy for recreational visits in natural areas: A meta-analysis

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Geolocated social media data counts are increasingly used as proxy for number of visits in natural areas, including their spatial and temporal distribution. This paper synthesizes the empirical evidence concerning the correlation of social media data counts and visits through multi-level meta-analytical models. Analysis of 355 correlations from 41 studies reveals a strong correlation for annual number of visits over multiple sites (pooled Pearson's r = 0.73) and for monthly visits in a single site (pooled Pearson's r = 0.84). Using data from multiple social media sources improves the correlation. Mixed results are obtained with regard to the effect of social media penetration rate and designation as national park on the correlation. Future studies should focus on broadening the scope of investigation to middle and low-income countries, developing a systematic approach toward the use of covariates, and comparing the results from social media data to those from other emerging monitoring techniques.

Original languageEnglish
Article number115325
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Elsevier Ltd


  • Cultural ecosystem services
  • Meta-regression
  • Nature-based tourism
  • Passive crowdsourcing
  • User-generated content
  • Visitor monitoring

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Environmental Engineering


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