Are Urban Ecosystem Services Useful for a Sustainable City?
Monday, 15 December 2014: 8:20 AM
In meeting the needs of rapidly expanding city residents, ecosystem functioning within the urban boundary may provide several key services ranging from life-sustaining services such as climate regulation and food production to services associated with recreation and aesthetics. In contrast, ecosystem disservices are associated with ecosystem characteristics that have a negative impact on residents and range from potentially injurious components such as increasing pollutant exposure or additional resource requirements such as irrigation water. Identifying trade-offs in both services and disservices is a priority for assessing how ecosystem functioning influences urban residents. Such assessments require a baseline understanding of their rates of production and acutely need expanded monitoring and modeling. Recent efforts at quantifying ecosystem services and disservices have relied on combinations of direct field surveys, in-situ environmental sensor networks, and remotely sensed vegetation. While much work has been conducted within single metropolitan regions, expanded efforts are underway to analyze networks of urban sites. Here I highlight recent findings associated with urban ecosystem services associated with variation in urban forests and urban gardens as two contrasting ecosystem types within a city. These research efforts are leading to improved understanding of the variation in the production of and specific desires for ecosystem services and disservices. Initial data across several studies suggests desires for services show sensitivity to both socioeconomic status as suggested by a hierarchy of needs hypothesis and local environmental conditions as suggested by an environmental determinism hypothesis. Consequently, the production of ecosystem services also varies dramatically across socioeconomic and climate gradients. Future projections of the rates of service production are highly uncertain with likely strong nonlinearities in responses to urban conditions. Designing for sustainable ecosystem services within cities such that benefits are maximized and costs are minimized as we prepare for a near future with 2.5 billion more urban residents.