Mapping the cultural services of ecosystems and heritage sites in the usumacinta floodplain in Mexico

Andrea Ghermandi, Vera Camacho-Valdez

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Tourism and recreational activities may play an important role in the conservation and sustainable management of natural ecosystems and cultural heritage sites. Local, domestic and international visitors, however, often differ in their cultural preferences as well as in the spatial distribution of their visitation patterns. The investigation of such differences is usually achieved through surveys, which are time- and resource-intensive and often impractical at large scales. This study takes an alternative approach, analysing metadata of 8, 245 geotagged photographs of the Usumacinta floodplain, a 25, 000 km2 coastal region with one of the highest biological and cultural diversities in Mexico. The results provide insights on the spatial distribution of cultural ecosystem services and historical heritage tourism and recreation that are enjoyed by local, domestic and international visitors to the Usumacinta floodplain. Specifically, we find that culturally tagged photographs taken by international visitors tend to be concentrated in correspondence to famous archaeological sites such as the Mayan ruins of Palenque, while local and domestic visitors are more widespread within the floodplain. International visitors are 1.5 to 2.1 times more likely than, respectively, domestic and local visitors to take and upload photographs of historical cultural heritage sites, whereas local inhabitants are 2.2 and 2.5 times more likely than international visitors to be associated with photographs reflecting aesthetic appreciation, mental health and bird-watching. We conclude monitoring and analysis of social media activity may be useful to improve the understanding of spatial patterns and different cultural benefits accrued to various segments of the population of visitors to natural and cultural heritage sites.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMainstreaming Natural Capital and Ecosystem Services into Development Policy
Place of PublicationAbingdon, UK
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781315531205
ISBN (Print)9781138693111
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 United Nations Environment Programme. All rights reserved.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance (all)
  • General Business, Management and Accounting


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