Changing ecosystem service values following technological change

Jordi Honey-Rosés, Daniel W. Schneider, Nicholas Brozović

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

Abstract

Research on ecosystem services has focused mostly on natural areas or remote places, with less attention given to urban ecosystem services and their relationship with technological change. However, recent work by urban ecologists and urban designers has more closely examined and appreciated the opportunities associated with integrating natural and built infrastructures. Nevertheless, a perception remains in the literature on ecosystem services that technology may easily and irreversibly substitute for services previously obtained from ecosystems, especially when the superiority of the engineered system motivated replacement in the first place. We emphasize that the expected tradeoff between natural and manufactured capital is false. Rather, as argued in other contexts, the adoption of new technologies is complementary to ecosystem management. The complementarity of ecosystem services and technology is illustrated with a case study in Barcelona, Spain where the installation of sophisticated water treatment technology increased the value of the ecosystem services found there. Interestingly, the complementarity between natural and built infrastructures may remain even for the very ecosystems that are affected by the technological change. This finding suggests that we can expect the value of ecosystem services to co-evolve with new technologies. Technological innovation can generate new opportunities to harness value from ecosystems, and the engineered structures found in cities may generate more reliance on ecosystem processes, not less.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1146-1157
Number of pages12
JournalEnvironmental Management
Volume53
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2014

Keywords

  • Desalination
  • Ecosystem services
  • Green infrastructure
  • Natural capital
  • Substitution
  • Technology
  • Urban ecosystems
  • Urban planning
  • Water treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology
  • Pollution

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