Baltimore Ecosystem Study Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies

2012 BES Annual Meeting Presentation and Poster Abstracts

Ecosystem services and environmental justice as tools to achieve urban sustainability
Cadenasso, Mary

Abstract: Sustainability has become a major theme in the policy and management of urban systems. Many cities worldwide, including Baltimore, are developing sustainability plans and identifying indices to track progress. Integral to sustainability, however, is an ethical concern for environmental justice. This talk explores the utility of two concepts ecosystem services and environmental justice as tools to promote an integrated understanding of sustainability. The integration of ecosystem services and environmental justice is possible because ecosystem services, derived from ecological processes that occur in all cities, affect the well-being of urban inhabitants. Maximizing services, and minimizing disservices, is in contemporary management and future design for sustainability. Ecosystem services, however, may not be evenly or equitably distributed in space, and, as a consequence, inhabitants may be differentially exposed to environmental benefits or burdens. One particular challenge is rooted in the fact that many ecosystem services are often managed through amenities which are spatially explicit objects. These objects, or management implementations, may be perceived as either amenities or disamenities by different city inhabitants. How do we better understand whether management practices aimed at improving ecosystem services are differentially experienced as dis/amenities by disadvantaged communities? To do this we must integrate environmental justice into the management of ecosystem services. The overarching goal of this talk is to introduce an integrated framework for bringing together the concepts of ecosystem services and environmental justice in an effort to promote sustainability in urban systems. This framework will be discussed using the example of urban tree planting programs which are key activities in many sustainability efforts in the U.S. and worldwide. The development of this integrated framework is one result of a NCEAS (National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis) workgroup focused on ecosystem services and environmental justice. Many BES colleagues lead and participated in this workgroup as well as colleagues representing different cities across the U.S.