The value of urban ecosystem services in New York City

A spatially explicit multicriteria analysis of landscape scale valuation scenarios

Urban ecosystem services indicators for five ecosystem services. Source: The value of urban ecosystem services in New York City: A spatially explicit multicriteria analysis of landscape scale valuation scenarios

Assistant professor of urban planning Zoé Hamstead and collaborators use New York City (NYC) as a case study to evaluate and analyze how the value of multiple ecosystem services of urban green infrastructure shifts with shifting governance priorities. 

Mapping, modeling, and valuing urban ecosystem services are important for integrating the ecosystem services concept in urban planning and decision-making. However, decision-support tools able to consider multiple ecosystem services in the urban setting using complex and heterogeneous data are still in early development. We first examined the spatial distribution of five ecosystem services – storm water absorption, carbon storage, air pollution removal, local climate regulation, and recreation – to create the first multiple ecosystem services evaluation of all green infrastructure in NYC. Then, combining an urban ecosystem services landscape approach with spatial multicriteria analysis weighting scenarios, we examine the distribution of these ecosystem services in the city. We contrast the current NYC policy preference – which is focused on heavy investment in stormwater absorption – with a valuation approach that also accounts for other ecosystem services. We find substantial differences in the spatial distribution of priority areas for green infrastructure for the valuation scenarios. Among the scenarios we examined for NYC, we find that a scenario in which only stormwater absorption is prioritized leads to the most unevenly distributed ES values. By contrast, we find least variation in ES values where stormwater absorption, local climate regulation, carbon storage, air pollution removal, and recreational potential are all weighted equally.

We suggest that green infrastructure planning strategies should include all landscape components that contribute to the production of ecosystem services and consider how planning priority alternatives generate different ecosystem services values.


Zoé Hamstead, Assistant Professor
Department of Urban and Regional Planning, UB

Peleg Kremer
Timon McPhearson
Urban Ecology Lab, Environmental Studies Program, The New School


Environmental Science & Policy

Date Published