Session 17: Ecosystem services in support of livable cities


Session Abstract

It is now widely accepted that the quality of urban life can be improved by locally generated ecosystem services. Although urban citizens are mostly dependent on global ecosystem services to meet their basic needs, they have been proposed as a tool for cities to make positive changes and enhance quality of life. For example, there is increasing recognition of the multiple ecosystem service benefits of greenspace in urban settings. From a climate adaptation perspective, living vegetation provides an important cooling function that acts to combat the urban heat island effect. In addition, urban greening also improves ecological connectivity, filters air pollutants, benefits human health, and even has direct economic benefits by increasing local property prices. In recognition of these multiple values many local government authorities have begun to implement urban forest strategies with the objective of increasing canopy cover and/or the number of trees across their municipality's streetscapes and public open space.

However, whilst seen as desirable, obstacles remain to greater implementation of urban greening initiatives. This session focused on the latest research on the role of urban ecosystem services in human well-being, how ecosystem services are produced and consumed in urban areas, how programs such as urban greening and urban agriculture can benefit people in cities, and case studies on the impacts of rapid urbanization on urban ecosystem services. Going beyond a mere assessment of ecosystem benefits, the session drilled down to address some of these more complex driving forces that are currently shaping the development of new urban landscapes as well as highlight the opportunities to enhance the provision of ecosystem services in support of livable cities and the role of local government networks in this regard. Evidence was drawn from cities across the world to provide an international perspective. 

Keywords: ecosystem services, human well-being, case studies, disservice, greenspace, climate adaptation, governance, cities


Key Discussion Points

  • The depopulation of Japanese cities, and others, may allow for increased ecological restoration.
  • There remains disagreement regarding ecosystem terminology, i.e., ecosystem services vs. ecosystem processes.
  • Values can affect livability and vice versa, e.g., using ecosystem services to cool a city versus using air-conditioning.  For those areas that value indoor spaces, air-conditioning will likely be more highly valued.  Livability is something that should be agreed upon by all residents, but this is a difficult consensus to obtain. 
  • Livability indicators are difficult to determine.
  • Urban heat island is directly affected by the quality of ecosystem services in urban areas.



Darryn McEvoy, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia

Alexei Trundle, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia

Jun Yang, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China



Yuji Hara, Wakayama University, Wakayama, Japan

Presentation Title: Agricultural land development processes differentiate wetland restoration methods toward creating an ecological network in Japan based on the Netherlands

Alessandro Ossola, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia

Presentation Title: The simplification of urban ecosystem structure affects soil processes and soil biodiversity

Jun Yang, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China

Presentation Title: Build the linkages among urbanization, ecosystem services and human well-being

Alexei Trundle, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia

Presentation Title: Resilience, the optimization paradox and green infrastructure: Ecosystem-based adaptation lessons from the land of droughts and flooding rains


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