NCEAS Project 12455

Ecosystem services on an urbanizing planet: What 2 billion new urbanites means for air and water

  • Robert I. McDonald
  • Peter J. Marcotullio

ActivityDatesFurther Information
Working Group17th—21st August 2009Participant List  
Working Group10th—12th February 2010Participant List  

For the first time in history, a majority of people live in cities, and urbanization is expected to add almost 2 billion new urban residents by 2030. While there is growing awareness that cities affect almost every ecosystem on Earth 2-5 and are increasingly vulnerable to environmental change6, there are few global estimates of urbanization’s impact on key ecosystem services. This is particularly true for freshwater availability and clean air, which may be massively impacted by urbanization and may be key future vulnerabilities for urban residents. We propose to assemble an intellectually diverse Working Group to produce the first calculation of the global impact of urban activities on two ecosystem services: freshwater use and availability for drinking and sanitation; and the atmosphere’s capacity to absorb pollutants such as particulate matter, ozone, and carbon dioxide from fossil-fuel consumption while remaining healthy to breathe and avoiding extreme climate change. During our meetings scientists and policymakers will synthesize datasets of urban demographic, socio-economic, and biophysical change affecting the supply and demand of these two key ecosystem services. Our calculation of freshwater and atmospheric impacts will be incorporated into a high-profile scientific publication quantifying the ecological impact of future urbanization.

TypeProducts of NCEAS Research
Journal Article Marcotullio, Peter J.; Albrecht, Jochen; Sarzynski, Andrea P. 2011. The geography of greenhouse gas emissions from within urban areas of India: A preliminary assessment. Journal of Resources, Energy, and Development. Vol: 8(1).
Journal Article Marcotullio, Peter J.; Sarzynski, Andrea P.; Albrecht, Jochen; Schulz, Niels. 2012. The geography of urban greenhouse gas emissions in Asia: A regional analysis. Global Environmental Research. Vol: 22. Pages 944-958. (Online version)
Journal Article Marcotullio, Peter J.; Sarzynski, Andrea P.; Albrecht, Jochen; Schulz, Niels; Garcia, Jake. 2013. The geography of global urban greenhouse gas emissions: an exploratory analysis . Climatic Change. Vol: 121. Pages 621-634.
Journal Article McDonald, Robert I.; Douglas, Ian; Revenga, Carmen; Hale, Rebecca; Grimm, Nancy B.; Gronwall, Jenny; Fekete, Balazs. 2011. Global urban growth and the geography of water availability, quality, and delivery. Ambio. Vol: 40(5). Pages 437-446.
Journal Article McDonald, Robert I.; Green, Pamela A.; Balk, Deborah; Fekete, Balazs; Revenga, Carmen; Todd, Megan; Montgomery, Mark. 2011. Urban growth, climate change, and freshwater availability. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Vol: 108(15). Pages 6312-6317.
Presentations McDonald, Robert I. 2011. Urbanisation and ecosystem services. World Water Week, Stockholm, August 2011.
Presentations McDonald, Robert I. 2012. Urban growth, climate change, and freshwater ecosystem services. Ecological Society of America annual meeting, Portland, OR, August 2012.