A conceptual framework to untangle the concept of urban ecosystem services

Landsc Urban Plan. 2020 Aug;200:103837. doi: 10.1016/j.landurbplan.2020.103837. Epub 2020 Apr 27.


Urban ecosystem service (UES) is becoming an influential concept to guide the planning, design, and management of urban landscapes towards urban sustainability. However, its use is hindered by definitional ambiguity, and the conceptual bases underpinning its application remain weak. This is exemplified by two different but equally valid interpretations of UES: "urban ecosystem services", referring to ecosystem services from analogs of natural and semi-natural ecosystems within urban boundaries, and "urban ecosystem services", a much broader term that includes the former group as well as urban services in a city. While we recognize that a single definition of UES is not possible nor necessary as its application is context-dependent, it is nevertheless useful to clarify the relationships between these interpretations to promote consistent use, and importantly, explore how a broader interpretation of UES might advance its applications in areas that have been neglected. We developed a conceptual framework that links UES to natural and human-derived capital to explain the relationships between the dual meanings of UES and proposed three normative propositions to guide its application: (1) integrate holistically multiple components of natural capital to provide UES, (2) reduce dependence on non-renewable abiotic resources and human-derived capital, and (3) enhance UES through technology. The framework we developed helps to resolve the current ambiguity in the meanings of UES, highlights the need to recognise neglected aspects of natural capital important for UES, and can be used to clarify relationships with related concepts conveying dependence of human well-being on nature.

Publication types

  • Review