Chapter 14: Characterizing urban ecosystem services: integrating the biophysical and social dimensions of human-dominated landscapes
Missing from the general discourse on cities is an explicit acknowledgment and description of the role that ecosystem services play in meeting the needs of urban residents and their contribution to the social, economic, and ecological health of urban areas. Natural capital and the ecosystem services which flow from it are critically important to sustaining human life (Costanza et al., 1997; Daily, 1997). Half of the global population lives in urban areas and the urban population is projected to exceed 70 per cent by 2050 (UN DESA, 2008), and yet cities comprise less than 3 per cent of the land surface of the earth (Vitousek, 1997). Cities will continue to grow in importance as consumers of renewable and non-renewable resources, and as agents of change affecting environmental quality at local and global scales. Moving along a path toward sustainable urbanism is a topic of heated debate and the concept of urban ecosystem services offers an opportunity to assess decision-making efforts in urban areas and their role in improving or hindering the path toward a sustainable future (Ervin et al., 2012). While scholars of sustainability science increasingly agree that affecting policy action is often easier at the town, city or metropolitan level where policymakers are closer to their citizens than at the national government level (Clark et al., 2009), several questions require further understanding about the role that ecosystem services might play in improving decision-making efforts in cities.
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