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POST - Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology

Urban Green Infrastructure and Ecosystem Services

Published Tuesday, July 18, 2017

This brief provides an overview of the ecosystem service contributions of urban biodiversity and green infrastructure and the challenges for improving their provision - complementing POSTnote 538 on Green Space and Health.

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Wildflower meadow in the Olympic Park

Human health and subjective wellbeing (emotional states and life satisfaction) can be considered the overarching outcome of optimal ecosystem service provision. Ecosystem services are the benefits provided to humans by natural systems that range from food and water to recreation and climate regulation. In urban areas, the elements of the natural environment providing ecosystem services are referred to as 'green infrastructure'. Strategic improvement of urban geen infrastructure has been proposed as a cost effective public health measure. For a detailed overview of the evidence on urban green space and health, see POSTnote 538.

Urban green infrastructure is not just open spaces such as parks, playing fields, cemeteries, allotments, and private gardens, but also green roofs and walls, street trees and sustainable urban drainage systems (SUDs), as well as ponds, rivers and canals. However, existing urban green infrastructure in the UK has not been strategically planned to deliver ecosystem services. This brief provides an overview of the ecosystem service contributions of urban green infrastructure and the challenges for improving the provision of these services.

Acknowledgements

POSTbriefs are based on mini literature reviews and are externally peer reviewed. POST would like to thank peer reviewers for kindly giving up their time during the preparation of this briefing, including:

  • Professor Jim Harris, Professor of Environmental Technology at the Cranfield Institute for Resilient Futures, Cranfield University
  • Dr Zoe Davies, Reader in Biodiversity Conservation, School of Anthropology and Conservation, University of Kent

Photo credit: DCMS, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

POSTbriefs POST-PB-0026

Author: Jonathan Wentworth

Topics: Regional planning and development, Biodiversity, Pollution, Sustainable development, Water, Wildlife

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The Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology produces independent, balanced and accessible briefings on public policy issues related to science and technology.