Ecosystem services

Natural systems are essential to human wellbeing, delivering vital ecosystem goods (e.g., food, water, oxygen) and services (e.g., pollination) as well as those that contribute more generally to quality of life.

Urban living is currently made possible through the goods and services derived from both local and distant natural systems, often subsidised by the extensive use of fossil fuels. For example, crops are typically farmed outside of cities, with fossil fuels underpinning the fertilization of soils, crop harvesting and processing, transport to consumers and the removal of the resulting waste. Urban living is also made more liveable by natural systems within and adjacent to cities. Parks provide accessible recreational space, whilst allotments can facilitate community development. Green spaces have health benefits as well, such as removing pollutants from the air. Biodiversity underpins many of these benefits and changes to the diversity of natural systems may alter their ability to supply key services.

Transitioning to low-carbon living is likely to affect how key services are supplied, with potential positive and negative impacts on wellbeing. Green areas and parks will potentially increase in importance as they provide cooling (e.g., shading from trees, cooling effects of lakes and fountains) as summers get warmer with climate change

There is therefore a need to fully understand how ecosystem services and the biodiversity that underpins them are currently delivered to cities; and to explore how these might change in a low-carbon, resource secure future. It is also important to explore how natural systems can play a (vital) role in successfully delivering these future cities.

Research Theme Team

Jon Sadler Jon Sadler
Co-investigator University of Birmingham
James Hale James Hale
Researcher University of Birmingham
No picture available Dan Hunt
Doctoral Student University of Birmingham

The Little Book of Sharing in the City

The Little Book of Sharing in the City

This little book tells you about research that we did as part of the Liveable Cities project, looking at sharing in cities. Through a series of conversations with researchers and workshops with citizens of Lancaster and Birmingham in 2015, we conclude that: ...

Ecological connectivity research in urban areas

The successful movement of individuals is fundamental to life. Facilitating these movements by promoting ecological connectivity has become a central theme in ecology and conservation. Urban areas contain more than half of the world's human population, and their potential to support biodiversity and to connect their citizens to nature is...

The ecological impact of city lighting scenarios: exploring gap crossing thresholds for urban bats

As the global population urbanizes, dramatic changes are expected in city lighting and the urban form, which may threaten the functioning of urban ecosystems and the services they deliver. However, little is known about the ecological impact of lighting in different urban contexts. Movement is an important ecological process that...

Delivering a Multi-Functional and Resilient Urban Forest

Tree planting is widely advocated and applied in urban areas, with large-scale projects underway in cities globally. Numerous potential benefits are used to justify these planting campaigns. However, reports of poor tree survival raise questions about the ability of such projects to deliver on their promises over the long-term. Each...

Mapping Lightscapes: Spatial Patterning of Artificial Lighting in an Urban Landscape

Artificial lighting is strongly associated with urbanisation and is increasing in its extent, brightness and spectral range. Changes in urban lighting have both positive and negative effects on city performance, yet little is known about how its character and magnitude vary across the urban landscape. A major barrier to related...

Liveable Cities facilitates important Birmingham workshops

Liveable Cities facilitates important Birmingham workshops

Birmingham City Council creating 'bottom-up' natural captial plan using design methods

The Lancaster team went to Birmingham on 2 November to facilitate two workshops on behalf of Birmingham City Council. The Council is beginning the long process of developing a 25-year natural capital plan for the city, and wanted to involve...

Birmingham nearly finished!

Birmingham nearly finished!

Mobilities and wellbeing focus groups are done, now to complete built environment audits

On 23 April 2014, Chris Boyko, Claire Coulton and Katerina Psarikidou were in Birmingham for the last of four focus groups about mobilities and wellbeing. We have now collected data in two very different wards (varying on density...

Artificial Lighting and Low Carbon Cities

 Artificial Lighting and Low Carbon Cities

Artificial lighting has fundamentally changed the earth’s night-time environment, with implications for human wellbeing and low carbon living.

Much of this lighting is concentrated in cities, bringing a range of benefits and costs to urban populations.  Research by Jon Sadler and James Hale (University of Birmingham) is mapping artificial...