Managing landscapes for multiple, sometimes conflicting, objectives requires an understanding of the trade-offs and synergies between ecosystem services (ES). These trade-offs and synergies are often the result of drivers acting at different scales. Therefore, in order to understand trade-offs and synergies it is important that we understand the scale dependency in drivers of ES.
Here, we examine scale dependencies in the drivers of outdoor recreation in England to better understand trade-offs between different aspects of this ES. We focus on outdoor recreation because it is culturally and economically important; it is the result of a range of social and biophysical attributes which vary at different scales; and proxies that are independent of these drivers exist.
First, we tested the hypothesis that a social media based proxy (photographs from Flickr) represents ‘destination’ recreation (e.g. day trips and overnight visits). We did so by comparing to a survey based proxy, which is known to represent ‘day-to-day’ recreation (e.g. dog walking, visiting local parks). Second, we examined the scale dependencies in the social and biophysical drivers of both types of outdoor recreation.
Flickr data were best explained by variables capturing supply of recreation; whereas the survey data were best explained by variables capturing demand for recreation. This confirms our hypothesis that Flickr data measure ‘destination’ recreation given that the survey data measure ‘day-to-day’ recreation. In both cases, the importance of demand variables increased with increasing spatial resolution.
Understanding what a proxy measures provides us with information about how to use it. We conclude that Flickr data may be useful to plan at broad scales, but that to plan for equitable day-to-day recreation, specially designed survey data may be more appropriate. Estimating the scale dependencies in drivers of outdoor recreation gets us a step closer to a mechanistic understanding of the social-ecological system.