Ecosystem services as an alternative foundation for development, urban planning, and new water infrastructure in the U.S.

Project: Research project


This project will bring traditionally disparate disciplines (engineering, ecology, planning, economics, law, and policy) together to participate in three working groups that will build upon each other over the two years of the grant, moving from mapping ecosystem services (ES) potential, to integrating it into planning, and finally to considering the needed policy and governance structures. Each working group would be tasked with developing a concept paper, for publication for both general audiences and peer review publication, that encompasses new approaches to integrating ES into urban planning processes. Increasingly urban populations are now facing major hurdles in maintaining ecological quality and infrastructure. This project addresses a fundamental question: what scientific, policy, planning process, and governance reforms are necessary to refocus the provision of urban infrastructure (e.g. roads and buildings) to ensure the long-term maintenance ecosystem goods and services? Creating a framework for reverse engineering the planning process opens up the possibility of new ideas. For example, for a specified system, can we estimate the maximum number of people that can realistically use ecosystem services for their needs without relying on traditional infrastructure; and how will this threshold change with climate, physiography, and spatial scale? As population increases and we start building urban and water infrastructure on top of natural infrastructure, is there some optimum balance and what does that look like? Is there some threshold for diminishing return on investment? How does this relationship change with region and scale?
Effective start/end date5/1/1212/31/14


  • Duke University Medical Center


ecosystem service
planning process
economic planning
urban population
urban planning
urban planning and development