Urban Ecosystem Services : The Value of Green Spaces in Cities

Abstract: In an ever more urban world, the role of green spaces in cities is increasingly highlighted for their capacity to provide ecosystem services for human well-being. Yet, the value of urban green spaces is still widely overlooked in urban policy and planning. This dissertation examines the evidence base for the multi-functionality and values of urban green spaces, in the context of decision support and for priority setting in urban policy and governance. First, the multi-functional character of urban green spaces and the many benefits they provide to humans through the delivery of ecosystem services is studied through a literature review. Secondly, the pluralism of values is examined through case studies from urban green spaces in Barcelona, Spain. Within these case studies, value perceptions, value emergence and value dimensions are scrutinized by combining different methods, including remote sensing, participatory observations, interviews, surveys, statistical analysis and geographical information systems. Finally, pathways for an integrated valuation of ecosystem services in urban planning are explored through a review of state-of-the-art knowledge on multi-criteria decision analysis applied in relation to ecosystem services. The dissertation shows the multi-functional character of urban green spaces and outlines their specific importance for the provision of cultural ecosystem services. It contributes to operationalize the perspective of value pluralism in the assessment of ecosystem services from urban green spaces. It is noted that the perception of diverging values is mainly determined by the characteristics of the ‘valuator’, the socio-institutional context, as well as different valuation languages through which values are assessed. The perspective of value pluralism endorsed in this thesis, underlines the need for an integrated valuation of ecosystem services to inform decision-making and governance. The thesis examines the potential of multi-criteria decision analysis as a tool to facilitate such integrated valuation of ecosystem services, in the context of urban planning. By putting forward the value of ecosystem services for humans, the thesis intents to provide a cornerstone for policies towards more sustainable and resilient cities that recognize the interconnection and dependency of cities on healthy ecosystems worldwide.