Resource recovery from sanitation to enhance ecosystem services

John T. Trimmer, Daniel C. Miller, Jeremy S. Guest

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Sanitation is often viewed as an unmentionable social obligation. Efficiently delivering this public good may involve use of ecosystem services, such as pollutant assimilation in wetlands, yet sanitation need not only consume: recovered resources (nutrients, organic matter and water) may enhance multiple ecosystem services, thereby expanding the value of sanitation. However, potential linkages between sanitation and ecosystem services have received limited attention. Bridging these fields will reveal opportunities to support sustainability goals, particularly in settings with extensive ecological assets but limited economic means. Here we develop a conceptual framework defining pathways through which recoverable resources can enhance ecosystem services and shed light on the viability of exploring synergistic interactions between engineered and natural systems. We find underexplored potential, particularly relating to the contribution resource recovery could make to regional ecosystems in countries across the globe. Such integrative work is needed to advance knowledge of sanitation–ecosystem linkages and stimulate policy efforts to enhance sustainable development and resource cycles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)681-690
Number of pages10
JournalNature Sustainability
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Food Science
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Ecology
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Urban Studies
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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