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Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) is one of the most urbanized and biologically diverse regions in the world but is often characterized by weak environmental governance and socioeconomic inequalities. Given large expanses of intact biomes, a long history of pre-Colombian civilizations, and recent urbanization trends, the urban ecosystem services (UES) concept has the potential to address issues of well-being for its citizens. We review relevant regional and global literature and use expert-based knowledge to identify the state of the art of the UES concept as applicable to green spaces in LAC and elucidate three overarching guidelines for management and future research needs: 1. LAC cities can be socio-ecologically unique; 2. Drivers of UES in LAC can be different than in other regions; and 3. Context and demand need to be accounted for when valuing UES. Overall, we show that research on UES is mostly from the global north and rarely accounts for the diverse and complex socio-political and ecological drivers of LAC’s urbanization processes. We find that, as in other regions, the biophysical context and land use policies play a major role on UES provision. However, socioeconomic inequalities and weak governance are key drivers in UES supply and demand in LAC. Context-specific information on how to promote, educate, and apply UES is particularly important, not only in LAC, but in other regions where inequities, rapid urbanization, and climate change effects are stressing socio-political and ecological systems and their adaptive capacities. Standardized approaches from developed countries should be used to complement - not substitute – LAC context specific approaches for studying and applying UES. We suggest that improved research funding and local governance can also provide critical strategies, information and the means for more effective management, planning, and equitable provision of UES.
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Urban ecosystem Services in Latin America: mismatch between global
concepts and regional realities?
Cynnamon Dobbs
&Francisco J. Escobedo
&Nicola Clerici
&Francisco de la Barrera
&Ana Alice Eleuterio
Ian MacGregor-Fors
&Sonia Reyes-Paecke
&Alexis Vásquez
&Jorge Danilo Zea Camaño
&H. Jaime Hernández
#Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018
Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) is one of the most urbanized and biologically diverse regions in the world
but is often characterized by weak environmental governance and socioeconomic inequalities. Given large expanses
of intact biomes, a long history of pre-Colombian civilizations, and recent urbanization trends, the urban ecosystem
services (UES) concept has the potential to address issues of well-being for its citizens. We review relevant regional
and global literature and use expert-based knowledge to identify the state of the art of the UES concept as
applicable to green spaces in LAC and elucidate three overarching guidelines for management and future research
needs: 1. LAC cities can be socio-ecologically unique; 2. Drivers of UES in LAC can be different than in other
regions; and 3. Context and demand need to be accounted for when valuing UES. Overall, we show that research on
UES is mostly from the global north and rarely accounts for the diverse and complex socio-political and ecological
drivers of LACs urbanization processes. We find that, as in other regions, the biophysical context and land use
policies play a major role on UES provision. However, socioeconomic inequalities and weak governance are key
drivers in UES supply and demand in LAC. Context-specific information on how to promote, educate, and apply
UES is particularly important, not only in LAC, but in other regions where inequities, rapid urbanization, and
climate change effects are stressing socio-political and ecological systems and their adaptive capacities.
Standardized approaches from developed countries should be used to complement - not substitute LAC context
specific approaches for studying and applying UES. We suggest that improved research funding and local gover-
nance can also provide critical strategies, information and the means for more effective management, planning, and
equitable provision of UES.
Keywords Green infrastructure .Socio-ecological systems .Urban ecology .Governance .Social inequities
Electronic supplementary material The online version of this article
( contains supplementary
material, which is available to authorized users.
*Cynnamon Dobbs
Francisco J. Escobedo
Nicola Clerici
Ana Alice Eleuterio
Ian MacGregor-Fors
Sonia Reyes-Paecke
Alexis Vásquez
Jorge Danilo Zea Camaño
H. Jaime Hernández
Extended author information available on the last page of the article
Urban Ecosystems
With an average of 80% of its inhabitants living in urban
areas, Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) is one of the
worlds most urbanized regions. Fifty cities have more than
one million inhabitants and four have over ten million inhab-
itants (United Nations 2014). Rapid urbanization and
sprawling cities are affecting not only ecosystem structure
and land use change, but the provision of multiple ecosystem
functions and subsequent services and goods such as water
quality and availability, fiber and food production, and
socio-cultural experiences (Altieri et al. 1999; Myers et al.
2000; MacGregor-Fors et al. 2016). At a similar rate to other
tropical and subtropical regions, urban ecosystems in LAC are
also experiencing biodiversity loss within and beyond their
physical limits, with consequences to the well-being of their
citizens (Tratalos et al. 2007; Grimm et al. 2008).
Understanding this process and its effects is important as
LAC is recognized as a region with great biological diversity,
intact biomes, and many prioritized conservation hotspots
(Myers et al. 2000). The region contains nearly half of the
worlds tropical forests and nearly 40% of its renewable water
resources (United Nations 2010). Latitudinal and elevation
gradients have resulted in a diverse array of biomes such as
tropical, temperate, desert, high mountain, Mediterranean, and
mangrove, among others (Eva et al. 2004). Growing popula-
tions and economic development are driving land use change
(Inostroza et al. 2013) to the extent that urban and agricultural
systems are rapidly altering the structure and function of eco-
systems with high biodiversity and ecological integrity
(Tratalos et al. 2007).
The concept of ecosystem services has its origin and is well
established in a few high-income countries in Europe and
North America (Costanza et al. 1997; De Groot et al. 2012).
In 2005, the United Nations Millennium Ecosystem
Assessment (MEA 2005) provided researchers and decision-
makers across the world with an ecosystem service framework
and approach for quantifying and assessing changes in eco-
systems and their processes and influences on human well-
ture on services and goods from a variety of ecosystems across
the globe, including urban ecosystems, is being published.
Similarly, the 2015 United Nations Sustainable
Development Goals (United Nations 2015), particularly goal
11: sustainable cities and communities, calls for enhancing
sustainable urbanization, reducing the environmental impact,
such as air pollution, in cities, and providing more accessible
and inclusive green spaces. These initiatives have been ac-
companied by The Economics of Ecosystem Services and
Biodiversity (TEEB 2011), which linked the economics of
ecosystem services with biodiversity, and by the
Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity
and Ecosystem Services, which related scientific information
to policy making (Perrings et al. 2011). Despite the advances
made, further information about UES and how to apply the
concept outside of the high-income countries from which it
was developed is needed to address pressing social, environ-
mental, and economic problems that are relevant to LAC.
ing middle- and low-income countries. For example, the ur-
banization process in LAC is highly dynamic due to complex
geo-political and historical drivers, weak governance and
planning institutions, rapid population growth, dynamic
socio-political transitions, emigration to cities, poverty, real
estate markets, and marked socioeconomic inequities
(Roberts 2005; United Nations 2014). Such is often not the
reality of many high-income regions from where these UES
concepts originated. Indeed, most seminal studies are based
on cities of the developed world, particularly those from
northern and western Europe, North America and eastern
Asia (Tratalos et al. 2007; Haase et al. 2014). Thus, the role
of urban ecosystem services (UES) has been little studied and
global literature on the topic rarely accounts for the social,
economic, and environmental context of the LAC region
(Roy et al. 2012; Haase et al. 2014). Given LACslonghis-
torical legacy dating from the Aztec, Mayan, and Incan cul-
tures to more modern urbanistic trends and its many diverse,
often intact biomes; this region can contribute to the current
discourse on UES with unique lessons and experiences
(Isendahl and Smith 2013).
To address this lack of information, below we review, an-
alyze, and discuss the relevant literature related to UES and its
relevance in LAC, and in doing so we aim to better understand
and assess the application of the concept given the realities of
the region. Specifically, as our first objective, we reviewed the
international literature to identify the state of the art regarding
UES across the globe. Second, we identify and assess selected
regional literature from LAC on UES using expert-based
knowledge todiscuss and analyze the relevance ofUES given
the realities of LACs context. Finally, we draw upon this
knowledge to discuss three overarching guidelines and pro-
pose future research needs related to management, planning,
and the equitable provision of UESs in LAC.
We reviewed the international and LAC literature by
searching the Web of Science and Science Electronic
Library Online (SciELO) for English, Spanish, and
Portuguese language articles, reviews, and book chapters. To
better compare our LAC identified literature to other regions,
we used search terms reported in recent literature reviews on
urban ecosystem services (Roy et al. 2012; Haase et al. 2014;
Luederitz et al. 2015). Specifically, in a first search we looked
for records that contained urbanand ecosystem services,
Urban Ecosyst
in combination with their countrysname(e.g.urbanand
ecosystem serviceand Mexico) in the title, abstract and/or
keywords. We also searched for urban parksAND/OR ur-
ban forestsAND/OR green infrastructure,incombination
with their countrys name. In a second step we searched for the
same terms and refined the search by countrys name, using
the tool provided by the Web of Science.
Once the initial review was finalized, a multi-disciplinary
regional working group representing experts from several of
LACs most urbanized countries assessed and filtered out non-
relevant publications and selected the most UES relevant in-
ternational literature from their respective LAC countries.
This group of experts coincides with the authors of this man-
uscript. This relevant literature was identified using the publi-
cations title and/or abstract content, resulting in a set of pub-
lications that we will use as the basis for analysis and discus-
sion. The filtering ensured that the research was from a Latin
American city and that it actually referred to an ecosystem
service (i.e. was not just a tree inventory). The search was
carried out during June 2017.
This approach identified the major concepts that were
gleaned from a set of relevant global and regional UES liter-
ature. Key criteria in their assessment of relevance and appli-
cation in LAC was that the publication accounted for the re-
gions unique ecological, social, and environmental context.
For example, terms such as urban forest benefitsand urban
park and property valuesfrom specific countries not
matching the exact search string, were included by individual
country experts in our final list as their content did meet our
objectives. Finally, in our discussion, we focus our analysis of
the literature relevant to the three guidelines. We then eluci-
date areas of future research needs and directions in the broad
areas of urban and political ecology, policy, socioeconomic
valuation, and land management and planning that are directly
related to UES in LAC.
UES in the literature
Like other reviews focused on UES (Haase et al. 2014;
Luederitz et al. 2015), ours revealed an increasing number of
relevant publications related to the search string Urbanand
Ecosystem Services, which increased from 4 in 2000 to 462
publications in 2016. We note that at the time of writing,
halfway through 2017, there were already 220 relevant publi-
cations, included in the Web of Science and SciELO. This
search revealed a total of 1963 publication, of which 37%
are from the United States, 13% from China, 10% from the
United Kingdom and 9% from Germany; proportion similar to
those reported by Luederitz et al. (2015). As for LAC region,
after filtering out, we identified only 107 (originally 142 from
LAC countries), or 5% of all publications, indicating a notice-
able dearth of region-specific literature on this topic. When
including other terms in our reviews such as urban forests,
urban parksand green infrastructure, and specific coun-
tries in LAC, the number of LAC relevant publications in-
creased to 408, but the inclusion of these terms does little to
change LAC position as far as number of relevant publications
against other global regions (Fig. 1). Our results showed an
increasing number of relevant publications related to UES in
LAC, specifically from 2 in year 2001 to 70 in year 2016.
Overall, our review of the global literature shows that the
US and Canada have a considerably greater number of publi-
cations on urban foreststhan all other regions. Indeed, the
sum of all 22 LAC countriespublications place it fifth (125),
well after Asia - primarily China - and after Australia and New
Zealand. We found a wide range of disciplines publishing on
urban ecosystem services, but the main ones were the envi-
ronmental sciences, ecology, urban studies, and geography. In
LAC, the environmental sciences and ecology are the main
disciplines of research. However, disciplines such as biodiver-
sity conservation and forestry are of greater importance than in
other regions.
UES literature from LAC
A more LAC focused review of the relevant literature found
that only five of the 22 LAC countries had more than 10
publications on urban ecosystem services(Fig. 2), while
only 3 countries had more than 10 for urban parks, 2 coun-
tries for urban forestsand all the LAC countries had fewer
than 10 publications for green infrastructure.Thislackof
scientific publications is not trivial, as it shows a pressing need
for information and knowledge on LACs diverse and com-
plex contexts: biomes (e.g., climatic zone, local vegetation
and soils, urban morphology), governance and values (e.g.
institutional capacity, culturally held and assigned values),
and scale of supplied service (e.g., tree shade for individual
landowners or water regulation at the watershed scale); these
factors are rarely addressed in the literature (Andersson et al.
2007;Escobedoetal.2011). Most importantly, by relying on
information and knowledge gatheredfrom available studies in
disparate temperate developed regions like the United States
or Europe, there is a risk of making socially, environmentally,
and economically mismatched decisions that are not contex-
tually or scale relevant to LACsrealities.
We also found that publications frequently deal with issues
related to ecosystem services in relation to biodiversity con-
servation (34%) and the quantification of regulating services
(22%), and a large proportion addressed ecosystem services
related to forests or water (43%). However, less than 5% of
studies addressed cultural or provisioning services and only 6
papers included LAC in global studies. Seeour supplementary
material for a list of the relevant literature we identified.
Urban Ecosyst
In comparison to literature from the Global North, fewer rel-
evant publications from LAC could be used to quantitatively
analyze and identify regional trends and metrics than those
typically reported in other English Language international re-
views on UES (Haase et al. 2014; Luederitz et al. 2015;Roy
et al. 2012; Von Döhren and Haase 2015). Therefore, given
Fig. 2 Number of publications in
the Web of Science (WoS) and
SciELO relating to Urban
Ecosystem Services (UES),
Urban parks, Urban Forests and
Green Infrastructurein Latin
America and the Caribbean
0 500 1000 1500 2000 2500
Lan America and the Caribbean
Australia and New Zealand
USA and Canada
Number of Publicaons
Urban + ES Urban parks Urban forests Green Infrastructure
Fig. 1 Number of publications in
the Web of Science (WoS) and
SciELO related to Urban
Ecosystem Services (UES)
(June 2017)
Urban Ecosyst
this limitation, we used this finite number of available litera-
ture (in English, Spanish and Portuguese) and our expert
knowledge to both assess the international state of the art of
the UES concept and its regional application given LACs
socio-ecological and economic context. To do so, we centered
our discussion on three overarching guidelines: 1. LAC cities
can be socio-ecologically unique; 2. Drivers of UES in LAC
can be different than in other regions; and 3. Context and
demand need to be accounted for when valuing UES. Then,
for our Conclusion we synthesized our review and assessment
to elucidate areas of future research needs related to UES
management and planning in LAC.
Ecosystem services in the global urban
We found a wealth of publications documenting the potential
of urban green spaces to contribute to human quality of life
through infrastructure, access to education, and health and
labor opportunities, and this has been well established in both
international and LAC regional literature (see supplementary
section). But, a significant body of the UES literature focuses
on their supply, which is often referred to as benefits derived
from intermediate ecological functions and processes that di-
rectly or indirectly contribute to human well-being (Dobbs
et al. 2011). By contrast ecosystem disservices, as presented
in the international literature, are those ecosystem functions
that detrimentally affect human well-being (e.g., allergies, nui-
sance wildlife, vector habitat; Escobedo et al. 2011;Von
Döhren and Haase 2015). Based on these previous studies,
we integrated these slightly varying definitions. For our pur-
poses we defined UES as the ecological processes, functions,
and products from both natural and semi-natural and/or man-
aged ecosystems in urban and peri-urban areas that contribute
to human wellbeing. By semi-natural ecosystems, we refer to
those that are human maintained and those in, or near, human
settlements that have moderate to highly disturbed ecosystem
structure and functional attributes.
Accordingly, we referred to natural and semi-natural urban
green spaces (i.e., green infrastructure, urban parks and ur-
ban forests) as the nature-based attributes existing in cities that
are, or have been, subjected to anthropogenic management
and disturbance. These attributes include trees and other veg-
etation in streetscapes, forests, parks, gardens, conservation
areas, wetlands, streams, rivers and riparian zones, or estuaries
within or adjacent to urban agglomerations. Their structural
attributes also include pervious soils and planted, remnant, or
ruderal vegetation and the associated fauna whose ecosystem
functions provide for socially, economically, and environmen-
tally beneficial services (Dobbs et al. 2014; Escobedo et al.
2011; MacGregor-Fors et al. 2016; Roy et al. 2012).
The international literature we reviewed refers to regulating
UES as those that sustain processes that are key for the medi-
ation of waste, flow of material and energy, and the mainte-
nance of physical, chemical and biological conditions, includ-
ing flood regulation, pollution removal and temperature ame-
lioration (González-Oreja et al. 2010; Dobbs et al. 2011;Cui
and De Foy 2012; Roy et al. 2012). Provisioning UES mean-
while influence the supply of food, fiber, and drinking water,
and are key for building materials and for human nutrition
(Altieri et al. 1999; Russo et al. 2017a). Cultural UES are the
result of physical and intellectual, spiritual and symbolic inter-
actions with ecosystem functions that provide for human rec-
reation, education, religious, and aesthetic amenities, including
increased property premiums that benefit human cognition and
sense of place (De Groot et al. 2012;Henrique2006). Finally,
Supporting and Habitat UES are the ones that allow for other
ecosystem services to exist although they are generally applied
to non-urban ecosystems with a high degree of ecological in-
tegrity (Escobedo et al. 2011; Millennium Ecosystem
Assessment 2005). We noted that other metaphors are increas-
ingly being used that are very similar to UES and green infra-
structure and include nature-based solutions, natural capital,
and blue infrastructure (Hasse 2015;FAO2016;Kabisch
et al. 2016;Sarukhán and Jiménez 2016; Faggi and Caula
2017; Russo et al. 2017b; Willis and Petrokofsky 2017).
After having defined key concepts based on the global
literature related to UES, in the following section we discuss
three overarching guidelines that we gleaned from our review
that the expert group felt should be considered when applying
the UES concept in LAC. First, we discuss if indeed LAC
cites are socio-ecologically unique relative to the high-
income countries of Europe and North America. We discuss
if the diverse and complex socio-ecological conditions in
LAC cities affect the structure and function of urban green
spaces differently than in Europe or North America. Second,
we identify drivers of provision and dynamics of commonly
studied UES in LAC and discussed if they are different from
other developed regions. Finally, we discuss and argue for the
need to account for both context and demand when valuing
LAC cities can be socio-ecologically unique
Like other world regions with low and middle-income coun-
tries (e.g. Africa and south Asia), several urban socio-
ecological factors such as rapid population growth, rural to
urban migration, socioeconomic inequity, and ecological leg-
acy characterize human settlements of Meso and South
America (Isendahl and Smith 2013). But, the increased num-
ber of biodiversity hotspots makes LAC different from Europe
and US-Canada. Generally, modern cities in LAC are charac-
terized by higher population density than European and North
American cities, and have a high proportion of their urban area
Urban Ecosyst
occupied by public housing and informal settlements, imper-
vious surfaces, and high building density, often resulting in
low urban vegetation cover and fragmented patches of green
spaces (United Nations 2010). However, cities across the
LAC region also exhibit marked socioeconomic inequalities
that influence access to public services such as sanitation and
transportation (Borsdorf and Hidalgo 2010;Pauchardand
Barbosa 2013). This latter reality is key in our discussion
and will be discussed in the following sections.
Several international studies documented that the distribu-
tion, quantity and quality of urban green spaces are often
proxies for the residentssocioeconomic status (Pedlowski
et al. 2002; De la Barrera et al. 2016; Wright et al. 2012;
Scopellit et al. 2016). Generally, higher income neighbor-
hoods have a greater quantity and better quality of public
green spaces, private parks, and residential gardens in larger
lots. Conversely, the poorest neighborhoods have varying
building densities, poor infrastructure, low quantity and qual-
ity of green spaces, small residential gardens, and sparse veg-
etation cover in smaller lots (Fig. 3; Pedlowski et al. 2002,
Reyes-Paecke and Figueroa 2010, Reyes-Paecke and Meza
2011, Wright et al. 2012, Scopellit et al. 2016). The middle-
class residential areas are generally diverse in terms of vege-
tation, which is mostly limited to green spaces and residential
gardens (De la Barrera et al. 2016). Further, since the late
1980s, the relative proportion of urban growth in LAC has
occurred mostly in medium-sized cities which in recent de-
cades have increased rapidly throughout the region, replicat-
ing the segregated urbanization pattern of large metropolitan
areas (Borsdorf and Hidalgo 2010). Such factors have been
reported to lead to a significant loss in green spaces, especially
remnant natural ecosystems, as well as adjacent rural areas
(Aguayo et al. 2007; Pauchard and Barbosa 2013).
The relevant literature we assessed showed that socio-
political and economic contexts affect the structure and func-
tion of urban green spaces and their UES (Escobedo and
Chacalo 2008; Benitez et al. 2012; Biggs et al. 2015;
Escobedo et al. 2015; De la Barrera et al. 2016; Favaro et al.
2016; Dobbs et al. 2017). Specifically: (1) supply, level, and
interactions among UES; (2) demand for UES by different
social groups; and (3) actions of different social groups and
their power relations and asymmetries determine the decision-
making processes that drive social inequities relating to the
latter points. For example, access to urban green spaces and
their UES are often stratified based on income (Romero et al.
2012; Scopellit et al. 2016). Research on the relationship be-
tween urban green spaces structure and UES provision, re-
garding their socioeconomic status, has often focused on the
analysis of green space distribution and on certain associated
biophysical characteristics (Pedlowski et al. 2002; Reyes-
Fig. 3 Low income (upper 2
photos) and high income (lower 2
photos) neighborhoods and
streets in Bogotá Colombia using
Google Earth and Streetview®.
Note irregular land use patterns,
poor condition infrastructure, and
low, fragmented green space
cover in upper two photos. Aerial
images taken at an altitude of
3.2 km and street views are from
September 2012
Urban Ecosyst
Paecke and Figueroa 2010; Celemin et al. 2013). Thus, like in
developed countries- socioeconomic status- regardless of cli-
mate, is the predominant driver of urban green space distribu-
tion, access and connectivity in LAC (Romero et al. 2012;
Escobedo et al. 2015).
However, the socioeconomic inequity that characterizes
most LAC countries tends to weigh more heavily in the supply
(Lustig et al. 2015). This reality is starkly different from other
regions (E.g. Northern Europe, Australia) where effective
public institutions and governance can maximize the provi-
sion of UES via well-established land use and conservation
policies (Balvanera et al. 2012) which differ greatly from
LACs ineffective public policies and issues of poor transpar-
ency that can limit the influence of UES on well-being (De
Freitas et al. 2007, Romero-Lankao 2007; Hardoy and
Pandiella 2009; Perez-Campuzano et al. 2016;DaSilva
et al. 2017; Gonzalez and Ojeda-Revah 2017).
Several other regional studies indicated that historical and
current regional and local-level planning and governance are
key factors determining the amount and distribution of urban
green spaces (Colding et al. 2006,Henrique2006,Andersson
et al. 2007, Perez-Campuzano et al. 2016, Gonzalez and
Ojeda-Revah 2017). Neoliberal policies implemented in the
1980s across LAC have limited progressive governmental ur-
ban planning decisions (Roberts 2005). This has led to the
development of ineffective regulatory planning instruments
and increased influence of the private sector through real
estate-oriented interests (Henrique 2006). Planning and gov-
ernance are generally characterized by ineffective governmen-
tal institutions, lack of transparency, poorly defined ten-
ure regimes, absence or ineffectiveness of planning
tools, and prioritization of investments in built infra-
structure and hard technologies at the cost of urban
green spaces (Santos et al. 2010,Escobedoetal.
2015, Calderón-Contreras and Quiroz-Rosas 2017).
We also found that, because management of urban green
spaces such as parks and plazas usually depends on municipal
revenues and homeowner access to resources, urban munici-
palities and neighborhoods with lower income generally have
few, sparsely vegetated urban green spaces (Pedlowski et al.
2002;Escobedoetal.2015; Favaro et al. 2016), and subse-
quently lower UES provision. In addition, the occupation of
ecologically sensitive peri-urban areas by informal, poorly
planned settlements and slums detrimentally affects urban
green space structure and function (Benitez et al. 2012;
Inostroza et al. 2013; Biggs et al. 2015;Escobedoetal.
2015). For example, unplanned settlements in Bogota,
Colombia, for example, are a result of people being forced
to relocate due to military conflicts in rural areas or criminal
activity (De Geoffroy 2009).
These unplanned urbanization patterns common in many
LAC cities affect local and regional biodiversity by promoting
local extinctions and introducing alien species. Regional and
global studies show how changes in species pool (e.g. inva-
sive species) can potentially alter ecosystem processes that
determine the provision of UES (Lima et al. 2013;
MacGregor-Fors et al. 2016). In LAC, urbanization has been
documentedto have greater impacts than in other regions, due
to its high biodiversity and degree of endemism (Ditt et al.
2010; Myers et al., 2000; Mendoza-González et al. 2012,
Flores-Meza et al. 2013, Merlín-Uribe et al. 2013, Mitsch
and Hernandez 2013, Pougy et al. 2014, Salazar et al. 2015,
Scarano and Ceotto 2015). Urban ecosystems in LAC, as
elsewhere, are now frequently characterized for having many
introduced and often-invasive flora, which are preferred over
native species despite their influence in UES provision (Lima
et al. 2013; Caballero-Serrano et al. 2016). For example, some
fauna adapted to urban conditions can play important roles as
pollinators, seed dispersers and pest regulators (Aleixo et al.
2014; MacGregor-Fors et al. 2016). Large numbers of intro-
duced species are common in cities of Colombia, Brazil,
Chile, the Caribbean, Venezuela, and Argentina (Isernhagen
et al. 2009;Santosetal.2010; Gutiérrez et al. 2013;Lima
et al. 2013; Angonese and Grau 2014;Escobedoetal.2015).
Drivers of UES can be different than in other regions
Global and some regional studies on the supply of UES have
emphasized a few regulating UES, namely carbon sequestra-
tion and water quality (Fernández et al.,2010; Balvanera et al.
2012, Mazari-Hiriart et al. 2014, Vargas-González et al., 2014;
Luederitz et al. 2015; Clerici et al. 2016; Cunha et al. 2016,
Jujnovsky et al. 2017), and to a lesser degree, health, recrea-
tion, and aesthetic benefits related to cultural services
(Escobedo and Chacalo 2008; Reyes-Paecke and Figueroa
2010; Ribeiro and Ribeiro 2016). Given the dynamic charac-
ter of LAC cities, climate change mitigation, as opposed to
adaptation, has become a more common approach for address-
ing regulating ecosystem services mainly related to cli-
mate change and air quality (Magrin et al. 2007;
Escobedo et al. 2008; Escobedo and Chacalo 2008;
Baumgardner et al. 2012; Dos Santos et al. 2014;
Pimienta-Barrios et al. 2014; Sacchi et al. 2017).
As in other regions, the literature also shows a second set of
biophysical and morphological factors driving urban green
spaces (Benitez et al. 2012; Dobbs et al. 2014; Biggs et al.
2015;Favaroetal.2016). Many cities in LAC are distributed
in the extremes of temperature, rainfall, and evapotranspira-
tion rates (i.e., Amazonian tropical lowlands to Mexican high
elevation deserts) which influence primary productivity and
ecosystem structure differently than most developed cities lo-
cated in cool, temperate climates. This in turn determines the
supply and demand of UES, such as climate mitigation and
recreation (Dobbs et al. 2014). Steep topography in the moun-
tainous Andean region, for example, influences specific
Urban Ecosyst
regulatingUES related to the mitigation of natural hazards like
flooding and landslides which often affect the peri-urban poor
(Aide and Grau 2004; Pisanty et al. 2009). Also, most urban
expansion in LAC occurs towards floodplains and lower
mountain slopes, which are frequently occupied by low-
income groups following unplanned growth (Hardoy and
Pandiella 2009; Benitez et al. 2012; Biggs et al. 2015). The
establishment of informal settlements can often cause vegeta-
tion clearing in slopes and riverbeds, thus increasing vulnera-
bility to natural disasters, a particularly frequent problem in
LAC cities (Cilento 2002; Benitez et al. 2012). Climate
change will also affect LAC cities and its substantial vulnera-
ble populations (Cilento 2002; Aide and Grau 2004;Magrin
et al. 2007; Hardoy and Pandiella 2009; Coronel et al. 2015;
Favaro et al. 2016) and the structure of urban green spaces in
LAC (e.g. tropical and arid cities will regularly experience
severe drought and even wildfire, while coastal cities will
experience sea level rise; Magrin et al. 2007).
Accordingly, we posit that mismatches between frequently
studied UES provision and actual consumer demand in LAC
can be due to the lack of planning, connectivity, and other
factors such as spatial and educational segregation, high levels
of inequity, and low community participation in urban
decision-making and public affairs (Romero et al. 2012). For
example, the emphasis on mitigating atmospheric pollutants
research (Escobedo and Chacalo 2008), has overlooked many
other pressing UES occurring in LAC such as regulating ur-
ban flooding, temperatures, food security, and access to sus-
tainable supplies of clean water (Aide and Grau 2004;
Romero-Lankao 2007;Crametal.2008; González-Oreja
et al. 2010; Cui and De Foy 2012; Barbedo et al. 2014;
Mazari-Hiriart et al. 2014; Pina and Martínez 2014).
Although an increasing body of literature on soil-related
UES has been developed in regard to fertility and disaster
prevention (Cram et al. 2008; Fernández et al. 2010), other
functions and services such as pest regulation, pollination,
bioenergy, and food provision continue to receive little
attention (Altieri et al. 1999; Chaves et al. 2011;De
Medeiros et al. 2013; Aleixo et al. 2014;Dickieetal.
Research in LAC has however started to incorporate UES
such as provision of medicinal resources as part of the value of
conserving biodiversity (De Medeiros et al. 2013;Aleixoetal.
2014). Cultural UES in LAC such as recreation and aesthetics
are also increasingly being studied (Reyes-Paecke and
Figueroa 2010; De Souza Filho et al. 2014; Ribeiro and
Ribeiro 2016; Scopellit et al. 2016;DelaBarreraetal.
2016b; González and Holtmann-Ahumada 2017). These stud-
ies show that local governments rarely invest in urban ecosys-
tem restoration that is required for such UES (Pisanty et al.
2009), with few exceptions in Mexico (Mendoza-Hernandez
et al. 2013; Mazari-Hiriart et al. 2014; Williams-Linera et al.
2015). This is likely because governmental resources often
prioritize basic and necessary social and economic programs,
such as access to housing, health and sanitation, while
investing in green spaces and UES provision is considered
less important (Nickson 2001).
Some of the regional literature we identified shows that
efforts are being made in a few LAC cities to recover urban
green spaces through large-scale restoration and tree planting
programs that include the increased use of native flora and
fauna to maximize ecosystem services and restoration goals
(Pimienta-Barrios et al. 2014). Urban wetland restoration pro-
grams and strategies in LAC have been implemented to re-
cover spaces for biodiversity and/or UES such as flood regu-
lation, water filtering, air pollution removal, habitat conserva-
tion, and education (Table 1). Medium and large cities (i.e.,
Curitiba and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) have established parks of
remnant native patches of the Atlantic forest that not only
provide biodiversity but other regulating, supporting, and cul-
tural UES (Santos et al. 2010). More examples and quantifi-
able benefits from such projects are needed to inform and
promote UES benefits.
Context and demand need to be accounted for when
valuing UES
We were able to glean from the global UES literature that in
addition to the socio-ecological and political drivers discussed
above, land and real estate values and short term financial
profits to a limited number of agents, will generally outweigh
the use and non-use valuesto society of UES. Thedemand for
such UES is usually quantified using neoclassical economic
methods (e.g. hedonic valuation, contingent valuation, travel
cost, and avoided and replacement costs), sociology, and other
qualitative methods that measure peoples perception of UES.
Gómez-Baggethun and Barton (2013) and Kronenberg (2014)
provide a comprehensive list of these valuation methods,
along with their practices and limitations. This limited number
of studies seems to show that a combination or integration of
social as well as economic valuation methods are necessary,
given the complex and heterogeneous nature of UES.
Regionally, we found that most current LAC literature on
UES valuation is related to payment for ecosystem service
instruments like water quality and biodiversity conservation
(e.g. Brazil and Mexico; Larqué-Saavedra et al. 2004,
Machado et al. 2014, Jardim and Bursztyn 2015, Cunha
et al. 2016, Figueroa et al. 2016). Cultural UES and urban
ecosystem benefits such as heritage, pollution removal, car-
bon sequestration, aesthetics, and others, can also be found
from the Andean region, Brazil, and Mexico (Tognella-de-
Rosa et al. 2006;DelAngel-Perezetal.2011; Báez-
Montenegro et al. 2012;Ponce-Donosoetal.2012;Ordóñez
and Duinker 2014; Caro-Borrero et al. 2015). Many other
studies estimate Willingness to Pay (WTP) for services using
contingent valuation and benefit transfer methods based on
Urban Ecosyst
previous studies and shadow prices from North America and
Europe (Balvanera et al. 2012; Casey et al. 2006). But, as is
well known, possible mismatches are created when applying
these metrics for valuing demand in LAC, considering the
regions diverse flora, fauna, cultures, wide range of climates
and geography, weak institutions and transparency, and other
socioeconomic inequities discussed in previous sections.
Thus, valuing UES per se comes with several challenges:
weak substitution, perception of corruption in WTP contin-
gencies, socio-ecological heterogeneity, connectivity/
infrastructure value, and scale issues (Gómez-Baggethun and
Barton 2013), in addition to the risk of applying utilitarian
monetary values to UES (Kronenberg 2014). In LAC, these
same issues affect valuation, but the lack of region-specific
information and methods may result in different and
sometimes erroneous outcomes.
For example, Ordóñez and Duinker (2014)discuss
Columbiansperceptions of cultural UES and associated
values, and found that increased property values from urban
forests were not necessarily highly valued. This might be a
result of the frequent occurrence of informal economic activ-
ities near treed spaces (e.g. street vendors, intermixed com-
mercial/residential/recreation activities), complex property
rights, and high population densities; and hence, a greater
number of potential beneficiaries from these services. A sim-
ilar study in Mexico (Camacho-Cervantes et al. 2014)re-
vealed that people value trees for the oxygen provision and
shade that might be related to the air quality of the city and
summer temperatures, despite biogenic emission from certain
trees that can contribute to increased ozone concentrations
(Baumgardner et al. 2012).
Thus, urban ecosystems can pose both positive (UES) and
negative (disservices) externalities to different beneficiaries
within the same locale. Socio-political (e.g. education, access
to resources, crime) and geographic context also affect the
value that different societies and individuals- place on a
specific UES, even within the same region. For instance, in
arid Chile, Peru and Mexico, urban trees are valued for their
shading and air quality improvement benefits, but their evapo-
transpiration and pollination functions of certain species can
be considered disservices in these water-scarce environments
and for allergy prone populations. Thus, this differentiation
between service and disservices is both value-laden
and context-specific (Escobedo et al. 2011;von
Döhren and Haase 2015). These few relevant LAC stud-
ies account for local scale, context-specific socio-politi-
cal perceptions and values towards UES, and indicate
that increased environmental education, awareness, and
promotion are key when managing and planning for the
provision of services and minimization of disservices, in
LAC and elsewhere.
Similarly, limited regional literature indicates that in
most LAC megacities (e.g., Mexico City, São Paulo,
Lima, Bogota, Buenos Aires), urban development infra-
structure projects such as housing development, water
treatment plants, and engineered storm-water structures,
are regularly deemed to yield higher economic benefits
than does preserving green spaces and their UES due to
the opportunity costs of land (Aguayo et al. 2007;Cram
et al. 2008). Interestingly, as in other regions, much of the
engineered infrastructure related to urban development is
often to minimize the environmental hazards and socio-
ecological impacts brought about by the alteration of
green space function via built infrastructures (e.g. in-
creased floods, temperatures, quality of life; Von Döhren
and Haase 2015). Hence, region-specific socio-political
valuation information and methods that also prioritize sus-
tainability and equity are direly needed. We are awared
that in the time during the review-acceptance process of
the manuscript, new studies from LAC are beginning to
address issues such as urban ecosystem disservices,
spatio-temporal intercity comparisons of UES, and the
social value of provisioning UES among others
(Almeida et al. 2018; Banzhaf et al. 2018;DeMola
et al. 2018; Dobbs et al. 2018; Escobedo et al. 2018;
Moser et al. 2018; Nadal et al. 2018).
Table 1 Urban tree planting and
wetland restoration project
examples from Latin America and
the Caribbean
Tree plantings Web source
Belo Horizonte
Santiago (Chile);
Quito (Ecuador)
Wetland restoration
Belo Horizonte
Santiago (Chile)
Urban Ecosyst
Overall the UES concepts origin, development, and sheer
number of publications are from the US-Canada, Europe and
more recently, China and Australia. As such the development,
policy uptake, and institutionalization of the UES as a research
framework and governance instrument in the European
Union, Canada, and the US has been well defined and accept-
ed. Although ecosystem service related concepts and practices
such as payments for ecosystem services and benefits from
urban green spaces are commonly mentioned in LAC urban
planning instruments, noticeably lacking are scientific UES
publications from LAC and other middle and low income
countries in Asia and Africa that can provide the science-
based information needed for more effective policy uptake.
Although we did identify similarities and dissimilarities in
relation to how UES are defined, used, applied, and institu-
tionalized between LAC and other developed regions, we
conclude that standardized approaches from developed coun-
tries should continue to be used to complement, but not sub-
stitute for, LAC-specific models and frameworks for applying
the UES approach in the region.
Up to this point we have used the global and regional lit-
erature as the evidence and basis for our review and analyses.
But given the noticeable lack of relevant literature from LAC,
here forth we use our expert-based knowledge to elaborate
beyond our review and the three guidelines we laid out. We
noticed a clear omission on studies regarding the role of gov-
ernance and government funding for UES research in LAC.
Thus, we argue that more improved governance systems are
also a necessity in LAC to provide for more effective and
equitable provision of UES. However, increased funding in
UES research, education, and institutional capacity in LAC
are urgently needed to better quantify the supply, and value
the demand for UES in both an equitable and relevant manner.
As in Europe and China, research using and developing
geospatial tools is one approach that can be used to better
understand the socioeconomic inequalities and mismatches
in UES supply distribution across space and time. But, spa-
tially explicit context relevant analyses need to also ac-
count for consumer demand for UES and disservices in LAC.
Such efforts can be facilitated by incorporating researcher-
practitioner-citizen participatory processes and by developing
and making available freely available UES datasets to support
research, education, and policies as is common in the US and
Australia. Designing clearinghouses and guidelines in
Spanish and Portuguese language and other local dialects is
also necessary for disseminating science-based information to
government and other administrative units such as smaller
sized cities and communities that are distant from capitals.
Again, as opposed to most high-income English-speaking
developed countries, there is a lack of relevant literature from
LAC; thus researchers and practitioners have to rely, in many
instances, on the applied research and extension education
findings and experiences from countries in the Global North.
Accordingly, we identified the need to account for region-
specific urban ecosystem dynamics and disservices in both
spatial and temporal scales as this is key for effectively apply-
ing the UES concept in the region. For example, research on
UES should build upon traditional biophysical modeling and
valuation based on neoclassical benefit transfer approaches
developed in the US. But, site-specific valuation of UES that
are context-relevant to LAC will also raise awareness on their
supply and demand to beneficiaries and influential decision
makers. Hence, incorporating deliberative valuation, tradition-
al knowledge, and novel environmental psychology and be-
havioral economic approaches, as opposed to conventional
neoclassical or reductionist ones, is warranted. Other emerg-
ing research concepts such as socio-ecological resilience of
cities in LAC, insurance values of mitigating disturbances,
or Nature-Based Solutions, in both monetary and socio-
political metrics could be used to promote UES and conserva-
tion of peri-urban natural areas. Given LACsbiodiversityand
socioeconomic disparities, such knowledge is highly relevant
given the prospect of climate change effects. Similarly, the
role of biodiversity and tropical climates in negatively affect-
ing well-being (e.g., disease vectors, crime occurrence, wild-
life and insect nuisances, allergens, thermal comfort) has been
little studied. Improved information for the quantification and
minimization of urban green spacescosts or disservices is
necessary for valuing the net benefits. Based on our experi-
ence and discussions among the group, such knowledge could
facilitate the incorporation of the UES framework into local-
scale policy and decision-making.
At the national level, LAC has led the development of
innovative instruments and policies that protect biodiversity
and promote ecosystem services. Costa Rica is recognized for
their Payment for Ecosystem Service instruments, Colombia
has the National Policy for Integrated Management of
Biodiversity and its Ecosystem services, and recently Chile
is exploring the use of urban tree plantings as part of
national-level compensation policies for mitigating particulate
matter pollution. But, as LACscitiesgrow,amoreregion-
specific understanding of the supply and demand for UES is
crucial for maintaining human well-being and biodiversity in
places where most of the regions population lives. Such
context-specific information on how to more effectively pro-
mote, deliver, and apply UES is particularly important not
only in LAC, but also in regions such as Africa and Asia,
where inequities, rapid urbanization, and climate change
effects are drastically stressing local and regional eco-
systems and their adaptive capacities. We note that met-
aphors such as UES, green infrastructure, and biodiver-
sity, and more recently nature-based solutions, are con-
stantly evolving as a result of European Union and US-
funded research networks.
Urban Ecosyst
In conclusion, our international and LAC focused review
shows that the use of the UES framework in LAC can be
opportune, especially in benefitting vulnerable communities
and those that are at-risk of landslides, flooding, increased
temperatures, and food security. We propose that UES should
be incorporated institutionally by local-regional governments
as part of land planning and policy uptake, biodiversity con-
servation, and identification of restoration targets.
Incorporating the UES framework can be used to improve
resilience and achieve more sustainable and equitable devel-
opment in urban LAC. However, we believe the biggest chal-
lenge to LAC scientists, planners, and managers is providing
context-specific UES information, instruments, and guide-
lines that can easily be integrated into decision making and
context relevant policies.
Acknowledgements We thank Nina Singh USA, Juliana Montoya
Arango Colombia, and Ina Falfán -Mexico for their helpful reviews.
HJH is supported by FONDECYT 1140319 Vegetation knowledge-
based indicators for urban sustainable planning; CD is supported by
FONDECYT 3150352 Provision of urban ecosystem services, explor-
ing the effects of planning, urbanization, climate and environmental con-
ditions on the urban forest of Santiago and La Serena; FDB is supported
by FONDECYT 3150351 Modelación de servicios ecosistémicos de
parques urbanos en sectores metropolitanos. SR is supported by
FONDECYT 1161709 Contribucion del enfoque de servicios
ecosistémicos a la planificación urbana; FDB and SR are supported by
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Cynnamon Dobbs
&Francisco J. Escobedo
&Nicola Clerici
&Francisco de la Barrera
&Ana Alice Eleuterio
Ian MacGregor-Fors
&Sonia Reyes-Paecke
&Alexis Vásquez
&Jorge Danilo Zea Camaño
&H. Jaime Hernández
Center for Modeling and Monitoring Ecosystems, Universidad
Mayor, Jose Toribio Medina 29, Santiago, Chile
Functional and Ecosystem Ecology Unit (EFE), Biology Program,
Faculty of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, Universidad del
Rosario, Kr 26 No 63B-48, Bogotá, DC, Colombia
Geography Department and Center for Sustainable Urban
Development, Universidad de Concepcion, Casilla 160-C,
Concepcion, Chile
Instituto Latino-Americano de Economía, Sociedade e Política,
Universidade Federal da Integração Latino-Americana, Av. Tancredo
Neves 6731, Foz do Iguaçu, PR CEP 85867-970, Brazil
Red de Ambiente y Sustentabilidad, Instituto de Ecología, A.C,
Carretera antigua a Coatepec 351, El Haya, Xalapa,
91070 Veracruz, Mexico
Department of Ecosystems and Environment, Faculty of Agronomy
and Forest Engineering and Center for Sustainable Urban
Development, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Vicuña
Mackenna, 4860 Macul, Chile
Geography Department, Faculty of Architecture and Urban
Planning, Universidad de Chile, Av Portugal 84, Santiago, Chile
Universidade Federal do Paraná, Av. Pref. Lothário Meissner, 632,
Curitiba, Paraná CEP: 80210-170, Brazil
Geomatics and Landscape Ecology Lab, Faculty of Forestry and
Nature Conservation, Universidad de Chile, Santa Rosa, 11365 La
Pintana, Chile
Urban Ecosyst
... International-level laws and regulations may have similar effects at the municipal level (e.g., proposals for an EU Nature Restoration Law accompanied by urban greening targets; European Commission, 2022). Other relevant policy instruments include no net loss regulation, participatory planning approaches, sectoral strategies or management plans, setting goals and guidelines around nature-inclusive practices and ecosystem services assessment (BenDor et al., 2018;Dobbs et al., 2019;Duinker et al., 2015;Kowarik, 2019;Kvamsås, 2021;Ordóñez et al., 2019;. National-level policies are important in setting a benchmark for nature-based innovation by municipalities (Shkaruba et al., 2021). ...
... Learning from success and failure requires monitoring, which can help to make the case for, inter alia, more investments in the development and management of NBS (Li et al., 2020;Lin et al., 2019;O'Donnell et al., 2021). Monitoring should also account for the negative externalities of NBS including vector-borne diseases, allergy responses and tree-related nuisance (Dobbs et al., 2019). NBS could be integrated in compulsory impact assessments of projects and policies (e.g. ...
... Decision-makers should therefore build a picture of how greenand blue spaces could help to redress socioeconomic inequalities or reinforce green gentrification (Cousins, 2021;Gulsrud, Hertzog, et al., 2018;. Relevant metrics include data on tree cover and blue/greenspace availability and proximity, whilst survey-based measures on use and access to NBS in the city are also an option (Benton-Short et al., de Vries et al., 2020;Dobbs et al., 2019;Haase et al., 2017;Nielsen et al., 2017). Other relevant measures explore urban nature preferences, attitudes and values, which can be monitored using e.g., surveys or more qualitative modes of enquiry such as on-site interviews Li et al., 2020;Lin et al., 2019). ...
Full-text available
The last decade has seen a profound increase in the development of assessment frameworks for ecosystem services, green infrastructure and nature-based solutions (NBS). This has improved understanding of NBS impact assessment, including processual aspects related to participatory planning and governance. We argue that, although representing a move in the right direction, NBS assessment frameworks would benefit from a broader framing of governance, including the role of government-led laws, policies and regulations along with community-led and collaborative multi-stakeholder initiatives. The consideration of marginalised communities and environmental justice should also be strengthened. To ensure a feasible and comprehensive approach to NBS governance assessment, we carried out a systematic literature review on the topic of urban NBS governance. Using thematic analysis, we developed a framework of five themes encompassing nine governance dimensions, of which some are further broken down into sub-dimensions. To assess the different NBS governance dimensions, we developed a tool in the format of a survey for urban decision-makers and other stakeholders, encompassing nine urban NBS governance indicators corresponding with the identified dimensions. Further to complementing NBS governance assessment approaches in important ways, we were able to highlight knowledge gaps around integrating features of the planning process and community-based or traditional knowledge. Our tool for monitoring urban NBS governance is simple to use and provides cities with a low-cost and comprehensive approach for monitoring and evaluating their readiness for mainstreaming NBS.
... In addition to the more fundamental, conceptual critiques of NBS, it is also widely recognised that the potential attributed to NBS is often not realised in practice, whether by dominant forms of economic development, lack of political will, and/or inadequate planning and management in cities (Kabisch et al. 2016;Qiao et al. 2018;Dorst et al. 2019). There are also vast differences between countries in the Global North (GN) and the Global South (GS) in knowledge, governance, policy and institutional capacity to implement NBS (Dobbs et al. 2019;Breen et al. 2020). Fragmentation of government, including processes of privatisation and organisational restructuring, has exacerbated hierarchical and silo-dominated organisational environments (Randrup and Jansson 2020). ...
... Debates on more inclusive, pluralistic approaches to nature in cities range from the inclusion of relational values, more-than-human approaches, justice in ecosystem services, post development approaches and the life frames approach (Whatmore 2006;Gudynas 2014;O'Conner and Kenter 2019;Langemeyer and Connolly 2020). Scholars have remarked the importance of considering alternative approaches from a plurality of knowledge systems, including principles from non-western worldviews and cultures, in their relations to nature (Dobbs et al. 2019;Pereira and Bina 2020;Tozer et al. 2020;McPhearson et al. 2022). The relevance of indigenous, traditional or ancestral knowledges-understood as place-based and knowledge-practice-value systems-is widely recognised as a precondition for providing resilient and sustainable responses to the climate crisis and nature-based societal challenges (McMillen et al. 2014). ...
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Nature-Based Solutions concepts and practices are being used worldwide as part of attempts to address societal challenges but have also been criticised for not dealing with deeper transformations needed to face urgent issues including biodiversity loss, climate change and inclusion. In this paper, we explore how an inclusive, integrated and long-sighted approach, emphasising a more radical integration of nature within cities, might support the transformations needed to endure major contemporary challenges. Addressing important emerging critiques of Nature-Based Solutions, we consider the potential of a more incisive form of Nature-Based Thinking (NBT) in cities, based on more holistic perspectives. The paper draws on a reflective and iterative research process that engaged both the research and practice communities through a symposium and a series of futures workshops that together explored the potential of NBT to develop future nature-cities relations in Europe and Latin America. The results of the reflective process suggest that notions of nature with people-not for people-new organisational structures, and the intention and capacity to apply long-term perspectives, are needed when planning for NBS interventions aimed at sustainable urban development. This includes developing a cultural-structural change based on new and inclusive understandings of human-nature relations, and novel governance paradigms that allow cross-sectoral coordination and engagement of local stakeholders beyond formal organisational structures.
... Urban expansion in the Global South, including cities from Latin America, Asia, and Africa, show different patterns than regions from the Global North. Latin America has more than 80% of its population living in cities and has rapid rates of urbanization and sprawling, leading to land use change affecting the ecosystem structure, impacting biodiversity loss within and beyond the city limits (Grimm et al. 2008;Dobbs et al. 2019). The drivers of urban growth in this region include growing population and economic development (Inostroza et al. 2013), besides rural to urban migration, which has led to large socioeconomic inequity and ecological legacy (Isendahl and Smith 2013). ...
... The heterogeneous nature of vegetation management in cities leads to a highly variable combination of small decisions, which affects the survival of species needing larger habitat (Aronson et al. 2017). This has consequences for ecosystem function and the ecosystem services provided by vegetation patches exacerbating ecological and environmental problems and biodiversity loss (Grimm et al. 2008;Wu 2010;Dobbs et al. 2019). ...
... Resilience is a recent policy goal for cities worldwide as cities work to mitigate and adapt to climate change. For urban forest managers, it is critical to identify how best to manage for ecosystem services while also addressing urban forest system vulnerabilities (Von Döhren & Haase, 2015;Steenberg et al., 2017;Dobbs et al., 2019). However, while the urban forest provides benefits, access to those benefits is not even. ...
... Las políticas de ordenamiento territorial, articuladas con el contexto natural, resultan fundamentales para asegurar la provisión de servicios ecosistémicos urbanos. No obstante, y particularmente en el caso latinoamericano, las desigualdades socioeconómicas y los sistemas débiles de gobernanza afectan el potencial de aplicación del marco conceptual y operacional de los servicios ecosistémicos en contextos urbanos (Dobbs et al., 2018). ...
Las actuales concentraciones urbanas son desarrollos formales que mantienen su ex-presión con una evidente y alta inconsistencia. Notoria es la distancia que hay entre los postulados actuales de sostenibilidad y resiliencia urbana y la continuidad en las formas de consumo del espacio, el cual se aleja de la producción del espacio en la que se hacen visibles las formas de relacionamiento social producto de las actividades cotidianas, del recorrido histórico, de los significados culturales, entre otros. Estas tramas relacionales llegan incluso a plantear patrones espaciales que cambian y mutan la dinámica formal inicialmente propuesta. Una dinámica que extiende la frontera urbana con un desarrollo formal que rompe sus límites y propicia nuevos asentamientos, algunos de ellos planteados por el Estado y las entidades privadas y otros desarrollados por las comunidades desde formas autoconstruidas. Se hace visible así la migración formal y la informalidad a las áreas de expansión urbana a suelos rurales y a zonas de conservación ambiental y se incrementa a su paso el margen de vulnerabilidades ya existentes. Este libro busca comprender las dinámicas complejas de las áreas periurbanas de cada lugar de estudio, proceso en el cual se acercó a los investigadores a observar y compren-der los desarrollos formales y problemas sociales de tres áreas periurbanas, en las que observaron no solo las particularidades que les son propias, sino los conflictos comunes al entorno latinoamericano y, que de forma recurrente, se presentan tanto en asenta-mientos históricamente consolidados como en asentamientos rurales con cualidades ambientales variadas y expuestas a la presión continua de expansión urbana.
... Las ciudades latinoamericanas han crecido explosivamente durante los últimos 50 años, los elementos naturales permanecen dentro y en el borde de la ciudad, provocando la fragmentación y disrupción del medio natural (Dobbs et al., 2019;Inostroza et al., 2013, Rojas et al., 2017. ...
Full-text available
Los cerros isla (CI) representan elementos de alto valor natural y patrimonial. Sin embargo, pese a su destacada presencia en las ciudades latinoamericanas, es escaso el conocimiento documentado que facilite su reconocimiento e incorporación en la planificación urbana. El objetivo de este trabajo es identificar, clasificar y caracterizar los CI mayormente no-urbanizados y ubicados dentro de la zona urbana de las 16 ciudades capitales regionales de Chile. Los 75 CI identificados fueron clasificados en tres tipologías y caracterizados en virtud de sus coberturas de suelo, edificaciones y normativa asociada. En las 16 ciudades hay 32 cerros isla urbanos, 24 cerros isla en el borde urbano y 19 cerros de cordones en el borde urbano, concentrados en Santiago, Concepción y Copiapó. Estos tienen coberturas de bosque nativo, matorral y plantaciones forestales en el sur del país y suelos con escasa vegetación en el norte, dando cuenta de la diversidad geográfica y también de las presiones y usos que existen en el territorio. Así, los CI de Concepción tienen 30% o más de su superficie cubierta por plantaciones forestales; y del total, un 83% de los CI tienen elementos edificados y un 36% elementos patrimoniales. En términos de normativa urbana, no hay una zonificación típica de cerros y coexisten destinos diversos.
... Existing literature focuses on regions that only require heating of residential housing or combine heating and cooling of houses, so strategies cannot be readily translated to regions where only cooling is required (Bowler et al., 2010;Giridharan and Emmanuel, 2018;Roth, 2007). As a result, scientific knowledge on UGS' cooling and urban climate in the humid tropics needs to be expanded to determine the most effective mitigation strategies (Aram et al., 2019;Bowler et al., 2010;Dobbs et al., 2019). ...
THIS IS AN OPEN ACCESS ARTICLE, AVAILABLE THROUGH THE LINK ABOVE. The urban climate affects more than half the world’s population, and urban green spaces are considered a nature- based solution to alleviate the urban heat island effect and adapt cities to climate change. Knowledge on urban green spaces cooling draws mostly on data from temperate climates, and similar research in humid tropical climates often focuses on the dry season. This study presents year-round temperature and humidity data for sixteen stationary sensors in Paramaribo, the capital of Suriname, and remotely sensed land surface temperatures for these locations. Analysis was done of diurnal and seasonal dynamics, the extent of urban green space cooling and the relation between locational characteristics and the micro-climate. Results show cooling up to 2.5 ºC with distinct seasonal patterns, and that locations exhibiting stronger cooling during the day have smaller temperature ranges of about 4 ºC at night compared to ranges of 5–7 ºC at other locations. Locations with more trees and complex vegetation structure have temperatures that are 1–5 ºC lower than other locations, but this cooling decreases when the ratio with impervious surfaces increases. Land surface temperature differences between more vegetated and built-up areas reach up to 2.5 ºC. High correlations found among micro-climate indicators imply easier comparison between studies when using any of these indicators, even if not the same ones. The longer term data collected in our study enables investigating urban green space cooling taking into account seasonality typical to the humid-tropics and finds that this cooling can help cities in the Caribbean region adapt to tem- perature extremes, despite high humidity. Our study further provides an example for overcoming data scarcity and contributes to developing strategies for mitigating increasing heat-related health risks in the humid tropics.
Researchers increasingly consider the systematic integration of green infrastructure (GI) concepts in urban planning as an essential approach to tackle significant current and future challenges. Cities in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) face rapid urbanization, unregulated land-use practices, and poor enforcement of policies. These cities struggle to address the depletion and degradation of existing GI that increases their vulnerability to climatic hazards that threaten ecosystem integrity, and compromise human health. This paper draws on a review of policy documents, semi-structured interviews with metro officials, and cross-sector focus group discussions to explore ways to operationalize GI spatial planning and design on the ground. Through a case study of the City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality, South Africa, which takes a public-private co-development approach, we investigate the uptake of GI planning principles, the challenges, and local proposals for GI applications. In conjunction with the literature, we discuss the alternatives at hand. The local policy documents reflected many planning principles anchored in the Global North literature. Together with public and private partners, we co-developed four locally informed GI objectives: environmental protection, safety, joint ownership, and collaborative governance. We co- identified local planning principles and three strategies for operationalizing GI planning, including working with conventional planning, greater flexibility and creativity, and cross-sectoral collaboration. The findings suggest that collaborative strategies that allow greater access and the active, diverse use of GI could provide much- required cross-sectoral care and management. The real challenge is the establishment of such participatory partnerships as mechanisms to consolidate diverse priorities and co-develop technical and financial alternatives.
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Es abundante la información sobre los problemas ambientales que afectan a las urbes más importantes del mundo, pero es limitada para México. Esta revela que los servicios ambientales proporcionados por la vegetación, particularmente el arbolado, contribuyen a reducir las emisiones de gases de efecto invernadero, por ejemplo; sin embargo, su eficiencia está limitada por la escasez de agua y los contaminantes del aire y se agravará con el cambio climático. Entre los principales efectos de este último destacan la formación de olas e islas de calor y el aumento en la temperatura y en las concentraciones de ozono (O3) en las ciudades, donde dicho gas constituye una amenaza seria a la salud humana y a la de los árboles al interferir en la fotosíntesis, proceso fundamental en la prestación de servicios ambientales. La vegetación urbana puede ser una fuente de contaminación atmosférica al producir compuestos orgánicos volátiles que conducen a la formación de O3. La ciudad de Guadalajara está afectada por el cambio climático porque tiene porcentajes bajos de cobertura vegetal, alta contaminación del aire y la disponibilidad de agua ha disminuido. Estudios de fotosíntesis en árboles que crecen en Guadalajara revelaron amplias diferencias en su eficiencia de secuestrar carbono. Por lo tanto existe potencial para la selección de especies arbóreas con el propósito de usarlas en la reforestación de esta urbe, con el fin de reducir la contaminación del aire y mitigar los efectos del cambio climático.
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Urban trees and the services they provide (e.g., evapotranspirational cooling, shading, recreation, carbon storage, air pollution filtering) can have major effects on the microclimate of a city, although the growth conditions are often inadequate to ensure tree vitality and growth, negatively affecting their beneficial effects. In a worldwide dendrochronological study on ten urban tree species in four climatic zones, the growth and impacts of common urban tree species were assessed. This paper focuses on the results for Robinia pseudoacacia L. in the Mediterranean climate city of Santiago de Chile, highlighting the faster growth of the studied black locust trees since 1960 than its growth in the years before 1960. Furthermore, black locust displayed the best growth when situated closer to the city center than the city periphery and when in the northern and western parts of Santiago de Chile. The species characteristics of black locust also revealed an immediate negative growth reaction to drought events, followed by a rapid recovery, which was similarly influenced by the direction from and distance to the city center of the growing site. The results underline the overall worldwide findings on urban tree growth that indicate that a city climate with an extended growing season and increased temperatures can lead to improved growth of urban trees in the Mediterranean climatic zone. However, with increased growth, more rapid ageing and tree death might follow, leading to increased costs for new plantings and tree management. © 2018, Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile, Facultad de Agronomia e Ingenieria Forestal. All rights reserved.
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Latin American (LA) megacities are facing enormous challenges to provide welfare to millions of people who live in them. High rates of urbanization and limited administrative capacity of LA cities to plan and control urban growth have led to a critical deficit of urban green space, and therefore, to sub-optimal outcomes in terms of urban sustainability. This study seeks to assess the possibility of using real estate prices to provide an estimate of the monetary value of the ecosystem services provided by urban green space across five Latin American megacities: Bogota, Buenos Aires, Lima, Mexico City and Santiago de Chile. Using Google Earth images to quantify urban green space and multiple regression analysis, we evaluated the impact of urban green space, crime rates, business density and population density on real estate prices across the five mentioned megacities. In addition, for a subset of the data (Lima and Buenos Aires) we analyzed the effects of landscape ecology variables (green space patch size, connectivity, etc.) on real estate prices to provide a first insight into how the ecological attributes of urban green space can determine the level of ecosystem service provision in different urban contexts in Latin America. The results show a strong positive relationship between the presence of urban green space and real estate prices. Green space explains 52% of the variability in real estate prices across the five studied megacities. Population density, business density and crime had only minor impacts on real estate prices. Our analysis of the landscape ecology variables in Lima and Buenos Aires also show that the relationship between green space and price is context-specific, which indicates that further research is needed to better understand when and where ecological attributes of green space affect real estate prices so that managers of urban green space in LA cities can optimize ecological configuration to maximize ecosystem service provision from often limited green spaces.
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Using a territorial and integrative approach based on ecological and socioeconomic factors, we envision innovative policies and initiatives aiming to reconcile urban economic development with rural conservation and restoration projects. The Paraíba Valley of São Paulo State represents an example of territory where the region's urban development has affected land use and land cover changes, rural production systems, economy, and population dynamics with effects on environmental conservation. Forest restoration projects, rural tourism, urban to rural migration, and demands of urban consumers for more sustainable food production are becoming important linkages of the Valley's coupled urban-rural system. In this study, we demonstrated how place-based policies and payment for ecosystem services may foster rural socioeconomic development allied with environmental conservation outcomes. The coupled rural–urban systems emerge as a strong concept to deal with the synergies and potential linkages among rural and urban areas, capable to promote more sustainable farming systems and improve ecosystem services.
There is a perception that increased forest cover and density in urban contexts is associated with increased criminality. But, this complex relationship between urban vegetation, crime, ecosystem services (ES) and dis-services (ED), has been little studied in low and middle income countries. This study's aim was to statistically determine if specific structural and socioeconomic characteristics of urban treescapes were related to crime occurrence, considered an ED, in a major Latin American city. We used spatial and statistical analyses of a public tree inventory, homicide occurrence, and available geospatial data to analyze if urban treescape, demographic, and socioeconomic variables were related to the incidence of homicides in Neotropical Bogota, Colombia. First, a generalized linear model indicated that fewer homicides occurred in public treescapes with taller trees and higher tree density. In contrast, the amount of overall green space and average tree basal area were not significant predictors of homicide occurrence. Second, a geographically weighted regression model indicated that the inclusion of tree basal area rendered tree height insignificant, and that higher basal areas were associated with fewer homicides. Thus, both models indicated that increased tree density and size were actually associated with lower homicide occurrences. The amount of public green areas was however, not significantly related to homicide occurrence. Results indicate that in general, Bogota´s treescapes provided overall net ES as opposed to ED in terms of crime. Findings could be used to develop land use policies and management practices that increase the overall provision and demand for ES from urban forests.
Food security is at the heart of governmental agendas of developing countries. In Latin America, urban agriculture (UA) offers an interesting alternative to ensuring a sufficient, safe and nutritious food supply for urban populations. However, Latin American cities have been subject to radical transformations in the last decades, most apparently through the expansion of social housing. The main objective of this research is to analyze the social perceptions and feasibility of UA in Mexican social housing neighborhoods. The Mérida city was used as a representative case study. Structured interviews were given to 65 key stakeholders across different categories (residents, urban government officials and technical experts). The results indicate a nonexistent perception of UA in Mérida, despite the secular agricultural tradition of the Yucatan region. Nevertheless, respondents agreed in their interest in potentially developing UA activities to improve diets, increase green areas, support local economies, and reduce CO2 emissions. The main perceived barriers for UA are the prevalent model of housing, with a very limited floor area, and the current approach to urban planning, which lacks non-built-up areas. Significantly, large artificialized zones create suitable areas to implement UA on extended rooftops. Finally, stakeholders demand the intervention of authorities at different levels (Federal [national], State [regional] and local) as a requirement to develop UA properly. The main pathways for this support should be to prepare new urban and housing policies and introduce economic incentives.
This work focus on the configuration of urban green infrastructure - and thus residential access to those ecosystem services that green infrastructure can provide. Their area of research is the growing Latin American urban metropolitan area of Santiago de Chile. Here, they consider targeted spatial analysis on multiple scales. By identifying large inequalities in the amount, distribution and vegetation cover of green infrastructure in three extremely different municipalities, they emphasize the importance of public green spaces for the quality of life, especially for those urban dwellers with lower economic status. The spatial characteristics of green infrastructure derived from urban remote sensing data and techniques are underpinned by studies of the perceptions of various socio-economic groups. By this elaborated mixed method approach they provide differentiated answers to the question of what matters in planning green infrastructure towards sustainable urban transformations. Resumen “¿Qué es lo que realmente importa en la infraestructura verde para la calidad de vida urbana? Santiago de Chile como ciudad de estudio ” El trabajo se centra en la configuración de la infraestructura verde urbana - y por lo tanto el acceso residencial a esos servicios ecosistémicos que la infraestructura verde puede proporcionar. Su área de investigación es la creciente área metropolitana urbana de Santiago de Chile. Aquí, se consideran análisis espaciales dirigidos a múltiples escalas. Mediante la identificación de grandes desigualdades en la cantidad, la distribución y cobertura vegetal de la infraestructura verde en tres municipios muy diferentes, hacen hincapié en la importancia de los espacios verdes públicos para la calidad de vida, especialmente para los habitantes de las ciudades con bajo nivel económico. Las características espaciales de la infraestructura verde derivados de los datos y técnicas de teledetección urbana están respaldadas por los estudios de las percepciones de los diversos grupos socioeconómicos. Mediante este método mixto elaborado proporcionan respuestas diferenciadas a la cuestión de qué es lo que más importa en la planificación de la infraestructura verde hacia transformaciones urbanas sustentables.
Latin America is one of the most urbanized region in the world, where patterns of urbanization are disorganized and disjoint from urban planning, with unknown effects for ecosystem services (ES). We evaluated the ES in Bogota and Santiago for a 30-year period. Using remote sensing data, models and census data we quantified carbon regulation, climate mitigation and recreation potential. We assessed ES provision changes and their spatio-temporal patterns using landscape metrics. Urban vegetation patterns differ between the two cities because of climate variability and greening policies. Bogota stored more carbon than Santiago given to climate effects, differences within city were the result of different policies and management. Climate mitigation showed similar behavior for both cities, influenced by global climate, densification and urban sprawling. Recreation potential increased in the inner-city and decrease at the outskirts, reflecting unplanned urban sprawling and increase population. Areas of high ecosystem services connected for Bogota and fragmented for Santiago. Bogota improved its environmental condition, as evaluated by ES provision, while Santiago worsens, even there was an increased in vegetation cover. Vegetation cover was not a sufficient indicator for ecosystem services and the distribution of it becomes highly relevant for informing mismatches between services and vegetation.
Urban systems are highly complex and heterogeneous, comprised basically by two types of infrastructure. On the one hand, ‘gray’ infrastructure includes all artificial structures and buildings, often impervious, and their components. On the other hand, ‘green’ infrastructure is conformed by all remaining and planted vegetation within an urban center. In this chapter, we reviewed the global response of birds to these two main types of urban infrastructures, and then focus on urban Latin America. Few studies have focused on urban ‘gray’ infrastructure, with many of them biased toward its close relationships with exotic, invasive, and/or generalist bird species. On the contrary, many studies have been performed focusing on the ‘green’ infrastructure of cities. Due to the amount of knowledge regarding ‘green’ infrastructure, we approached it considering greenspace location, size, heterogeneity, vegetation traits, management, and human activities. Our review shows that there is a pressing need for studies that consider ‘gray’ comparison baselines when assessing the effect of urbanization on birds. Also, studies need to focus on the ‘gray’ matrix in which urban greenspaces are embedded, as we have little to null information regarding it, and it is essential to plan healthier and sustainable cities. Another important gap that needs to be bridged is the role that exotic plants have not only on bird ecology, but also on the ecology of cities. Finally, we suggest to include other conditions that, although are not as representative in all urban centers, are highly important for birds and other wildlife groups. Specifically, we consider it crucial to join efforts on studying water bodies (‘blue’ infrastructure) and wastelands (‘brown’ infrastructure) to increase our understanding of the role that these urban components play on bird conservation in urban Latin America.