The preference for this study was to use geotagged data from popular social media platforms like Twittter or Instagram. However, both Instagram and Twitter largely restrict data access through their APIs, with Twitter only allowing for searches of posts to be made within seven days of the search. Twitter has also automatically disabled the geo-location setting for posts since April of 2015, with only a small percentage of Twitter users have enabled geo-location (Lapowsky, 2019). Due to limited usable data from these sources, Flickr's API was used to derive enough data to perform the Getis-Ord Gi analysis (minimum of 60 data points). This was not preferable, because both Twitter and Instagram have over a billion users and are universal among the world population, with the exception of some third world countries and older generations. Flickr, on the other hand, has only 100 million users and is usually only utilized by bloggers, photographers, and other professionals, making it a niche representation of the larger population (Tarver, 2018). Futhermore, Tenkanen et al. (2017) found that Flickr was used less in nature parks than either Instagram or Twitter were, and this supports the idea that Flickr may not be the best represenative of the ecotourist population. Additionally, Hale (2018) had also used Flickr's API to find general statistics about tourists, like their nationality and hobbies.
Suggestions for Future Studies
To improve upon this study, future works might examine the impacts of climate change in the Rocky Mountain region. Using data available from the Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling and Analysis or other climate model databases could provide information on past climate conditions and future climate scenarios. Methodologies that emphasize change-detection over multiple years might reveal the extent to which climate change, and not just tourist habits, have some impact on ecological sensitivity. To support research in tourist movements across national and provincial parks, more geotagged data is needed. To aid in this endeavor, park management could encourage the use of geo-location services when visitors enter the park. Using multiple social media platforms and paying for greater access to geo-enabled data could provide a greater yield in data that would be more representative of the greater population, although future changes in API policies may prevent this, as was the case with Twitter's API. Additionally, future research may want to observe the kinds of activities that tourists engage in within the parks.
The results of this study indicated that Mount Seymour Provincial Park's existing management regulations are fairly effective at protecting the majority of ecological sensitive areas, and that ecotourism practices as a whole are considered to be sustainable. The results from the GIS-derived Ecological Sensitivity Index revealed that 63 percent of the parkland was considered to be highly sensitive. This is consistent with results of various studies in alpine and sub-alpine nature parks. Tourist activities, including mountain biking and hiking, are strongly correlated with reduced species richness in plant communities of alpine and sub-alpine ecosystems, especially in parks with poor management practices (Pickering and Growcock, 2009). Park managers can use these results to support decision-making processes in determining where protections and restrictions should be increased, if any. In the case of Mount Seymour Provincial Park, there are two locations that might need additional protection: a small area just north of the Mt. Seymour Resort, and Mount Seymour Peak, located along the Mount Seymour Trail. The results of the Tourist Impact Index indicate that these areas had high tourist impacts. Possible suggestions for improving the protection of these areas include adding additional borders to prevent tourists from going off-trail, or providing information to mountain bikers and hikers on their potential impacts and trail etiquette. Additionally, it would be beneficial to continue monitoring the health of the ecosystem in this area by creating an information system that regularly updates the status of species, diversity, and tourist developments in the area (Pickering & Barros, 2015; Zhang et al., 2009).
Thus, despite a high degree of ecological sensitivity across Mount Seymour Park, these findings suggested that overall tourist disturbances across sensitive areas were minimal and there was no need for a park-wide increase in tourist restrictions. Though data-driven research can and will continue to improve upon the quantification of ecological sensitivity and the impacts of ecotourism, it is ultimately up to park management to make decisions and policies that will ensure that park visitors continue to use natural spaces in a sustainable way.