Enhancing Sustainable Urban Development through Ecosystem Services - ENSURE

Ensure research programme produces interdisciplinary knowledge and tools for enhancing sustainable development in urban regions. The new knowledge and tools help urban planners and decision makers to assess values of urban green and blue areas and the multiple ecosystem services they provide.

Ecosystem services bring a holistic approach to planning

Urban green areas (parks, forests, shores, wetlands etc.) provide opportunities for recreation but contribute also to human health, air quality and flood prevention, among others. Studying these benefits as ecosystem services is helpful in comparing different areas and planning solutions, for example, in densification of the urban form. The concept makes it possible to assess costs and benefits of the service provision.

Studying ecosystem services provides planning with a holistic approach by revealing links between land use, quality of the environment and peoples' quality of life. Planning has been criticized for neglecting ecological knowledge as well the city as social space, lived and experienced environment. Separated research perspectives have been incapable to support proper assessment of impacts of planning decisions on different areas and their services in different timescales. These challenges can be addressed by interdisciplinary collaboration.

Disciplines in collaboration: bridging ecological, socio-cultural and economic aspects

The aim of ENSURE is to produce knowledge and tools that help planning practitioners and decision makers to take use of the new opportunities that ecosystem services bring for enhancing sustainability. The research comprises of five work packages with natural and social sciences:

1. Ecological basis of ecosystem services
· Role of green areas in stormwater quantity and quality and air quality (contact: Prof. Heikki Setälä)
· Role of green roofs in biodiversity and stormwater management (contact: principal investigator Susanna Lehvävirta)
· Constructed wetlands in stormwater management (contact: Prof. Harri Vasander)
2. Socio-cultural values of ecosystem services
· City and its ecosystem services as a part of young people's living environment (contact: Prof. Sirpa Tani)
· Role of green areas in human health and wellbeing (contact: Prof. Liisa Tyrväinen)
3. Economic significance of ecosystem services
· Economic values of services related to stormwater and air quality (contact: Prof. Heikki Setälä)
· Economic significance of ecosystem services in planning for resilience with climate change (contact: Prof. Adriaan Perrels)
4. Ecological and social governance scales
· Functioning of ecosystem services in different scales, scale challenges and ways to manage sustainable provision of ecosystem services by planning (contact: Prof. Harry Schulman)
5. Transdisciplinary collaboration

The principal investigator of Ensure is Dr. Susanna Lehvävirta. The team includes department of environmental sciences, department of forest sciences, department of teacher education, department of geosciences and geography, and Finnish Meteorology Institute, Finnish Forest Research Institute and Finnish Environment Institute. Ensure collaborates also with two artists by the Finnish Bioart Society.ENSURE also collaborates with Stockholm Resilience Center in the project URBES - Urban biodiversity and ecosystem services.

More information:

Project leader, docent Susanna Lehvävirta
Tel: +358 (0)9 191 50054
Mobile: +358 (0)50 576 2952

ENSURE brochure (pdf 1,1 MB)


Figure 1. The program structure and linking of workpackages. ES = ecosystem services.


Updated 19.11.2013