Engendering ecosystem services for urban transformation: the role of natural capital in reducing poverty and building resilient urban communities

Sarah Bradshaw, Brian Linneker, Nilo Nascimento, Indira Nahomi Viana Caballero, Heloisa Costa, Yumi Oki, Rogerio Brittes W. Pires, Meri Juntti, Lian Lundy, Rebecca Wade

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    The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA, 2005) recognises a number of concerns in the relationship between human development and ecosystem services. People are integral parts of ecosystems, and a dynamic interactive relationship exists between human activity and ecosystems, with changing human activity driving ecosystem changes, and ecosystem changes causing changes in people's well-being. Ecosystems have rapidly changed over the last 50 years, largely to meet growing demands for related services such as food, water, timber, fibre, and fuel. Human demands on ecosystem services (ES) has resulted in a substantial and largely irreversible loss in the diversity of species on the planet. The challenge of reversing the degradation of ecosystems while meeting increasing demands for their services may involve significant changes in policies, institutions, and practices for themanagement of ecosystems. The MEA notes the pattern of ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ associated with ecosystem changes has not been adequately taken into account in management decisions, in particular the impact of these changes on poor people, women, and indigenous peoples.

    Degradation of ecosystem services are often being borne disproportionately by the poor, women, and indigenous peoples, and are contributing to growing inequities and disparities across groups of people, and are sometimes the principal factor causing poverty, conflicts, or the migration of refugees in developing countries. Growing urbanisation and climate change present further important challenges for the future, and how urban development is undertaken and managed has implications for present and future wellbeing. However, cities can be planned and built to ensure sustainability for people and planet and ES can be used to improve wellbeing and reduce poverty. The MEA suggests the notion of ES encapsulates the dynamic processes through which natural capital when mobilised, provides a range of services, goods and benefits that are critical to sustaining life e.g. oxygen, food, water, recreational and psychological benefits. Ecosystem Services frameworks allow us to conceptualise environmental functions as an explicit link between natural capital and human wellbeing.

    This report focusses on how natural capital and its associated ecosystem services (ES) can be understood within the context of the urban environment. It focuses on how different ES can be incorporated into sustainable urban development and planning, as a natural asset that can reduce peoples risk and vulnerability, and improve their wellbeing.
    Original languageEnglish
    PublisherMiddlesex University, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Abertay University
    Number of pages109
    Publication statusPublished - Jan 2017


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