ESCom Series: Urban ecosystem services workshop

22 Sep 2015

Accounting for Edinburgh's urban ecosystem services: a walk in the park?

On Thursday 10th September, Forest Research’s Land Use and Ecosystem Services Science Group hosted the first ever ESCom Series event at the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation in Edinburgh. Over 40 people attended this workshop on ‘urban ecosystem services’, which included talks from researchers and lively discussion on the benefits provided by Edinburgh’s greenspace.

Good planning and management of greenspace in and around towns is critical if we are to meet the major urban challenges related to land use conflicts, climate change adaptation, and demographic changes. There is an increasing interest in how decision makers can better account for the multiple benefits green infrastructure provides, creating more attractive towns and cities that boost the local economy and benefit society’s health, security and well-being. This workshop brought together over 40 representatives from local government, NGOs, research organisations, businesses and community groups, to discuss ecosystem service provision in Edinburgh, a growing city experiencing rising demands for affordable housing and business growth areas.


The workshop began with presentations on some of the latest research and collaborative projects focussing on Edinburgh’s green infrastructure and ecosystem services. Maggie Keegan (Scottish Wildlife Trust) described the work that the Edinburgh Living Landscape (ELL) partnership is doing to provide, restore and connect Edinburgh’s green infrastructure at a range of spatial scales, from improving the design of existing and planned school grounds to making the access to high quality natural areas more equitable across the entire city. The potential impact of some of the ELL’s work has been assessed by Izzy Jones (University of Edinburgh), who carried out her Master’s thesis on applying a survey based method to measure the socio-cultural value of Edinburgh’s parks. She presented her findings, which indicated that park users generally favour low maintenance management styles and highly value the health and recreation benefits parks provided. Alexander van der Jagt and I then presented the work that Forest Research is carrying out on urban ecosystem services in collaboration with others. This focussed on the large, EU-funded project, GREEN SURGE, for which researchers in 11 European cities are developing and testing ways to link greenspace, biodiversity, people and the green economy. As part of this project, Forest Research and the ELL have developed ‘Urban Learning Labs’ to engage stakeholders and exchange information on Edinburgh’s greenspace.

Both Green Surge and an InnovateUK funded project that Forest Research is involved with, which aims to develop a spatial decision tool for businesses and local authorities, are using Edinburgh as a case study city for gathering data and applying methods to map ecosystem services. To help direct this research, workshop attendees were asked to vote on the importance of different ecosystem services in Edinburgh, from the view point of the organisation that they were representing. Each person was given ten tokens to spend as they wanted across the suggested services to represent their organisation’s concern for them. The list of services provided was based on those uncovered by my recent review of urban ecosystem services for Green Surge, and two key reviews on the topic (Gómez-Baggethun & Barton 2013; Haase et al. 2014). The results of this exercise show that all services identified were perceived to be important by the groups represented, but there was a preference for the cultural services, particularly biodiversity (also represented as a supporting service) and the mental and physical health benefits. Discussion groups following this exercise revealed a range of issues, concerns, and suggestions regarding the integration of urban ecosystem services into decision making in Edinburgh (see notes).

The results from this workshop will help to shape future work on ecosystem services in Edinburgh, helping us to provide information and tools that are useful to decision makers and that address the concerns of local stakeholders. We plan to hold another ESCom Scotland Series in the future to provide an update on this research.


Gómez-Baggethun, E. & Barton, D.N. (2013) Classifying and valuing ecosystem services for urban planning. Ecological Economics, 86, 235–245.

Haase, D., Larondelle, N., Andersson, E., Artmann, M., Borgström, S., Breuste, J., Gomez-Baggethun, E., Gren, Å., Hamstead, Z., Hansen, R., Kabisch, N., Kremer, P., Langemeyer, J., Rall, E.L., McPhearson, T., Pauleit, S., Qureshi, S., Schwarz, N., Voigt, A., Wurster, D. & Elmqvist, T. (2014) A quantitative review of urban ecosystem service assessments: Concepts, models, and implementation. Ambio, 43, 413–433.

Chloe Bellamy, Forest Research 

The workshop presentations:

Marc Metzger: Introduction to ESCom Series

Alexander van der Jagt & Chloe Bellamy: Green Surge in Edinburgh

Isobel Jones: The socio-cultural value of urban green space: a method for assessign the impact of the Edinburgh Living Landscape