Why do we like our city? – Exploring the ecosystem service cascade through the lens of social-ecological adaptation.

Authors and Affiliations: 

Simone Annerose Beichler1, Sonja Deppisch2

1HafenCity University Hamburg, Research Group Climate Change and Spatial Development - plan B:altic, Winterhuder Weg 31, D-22085 Hamburg, Germany

tel: +49 (0)40 42827 4600


2HafenCity University Hamburg, plan B:altic, Winterhuder Weg 31, D-22085 Hamburg, Germany


Our study aims at understanding the dynamics in urban regions under climate change, where landscape changes are driven by strongly interrelated factors like land use change, climate change and cultural development. This raises the question as to how ecosystem functions, structures and services contribute to human wellbeing and vice versa. Such a system perspective is essential for the development of adaptation strategies, as the social and the ecological system need to be adapted in parallel.

In the first step, the conceptual frameworks of vulnerability, Driver-Pressure-State-Impact-Response and ecosystem services were combined to discuss synergies of the concepts.  We demonstrate how climate change poses pressure on both sides of the ecosystem service cascade. On the one side, the biophysical state and hence the structures and functions of the ecological system are under pressure, leading to a change in ecosystem service supply capacity. On the other side, climate change simultaneously poses a pressure on population well-being. This in turn can lead to a change in values attached to services, which affects the demand for ecosystem services. Against this background, a research deficit, on the link between ecosystem services and the wellbeing of different social groups, became explicit. To address this issue we acquired empirical data through participatory mapping in our case study region Rostock (Germany). The participants mapped different ecosystem services and allocated values on a qualitative scale. Alongside an extensive survey (incl. age, education etc.) complex metadata was enquired, such as attributes influencing the quality ranks on the map and a ranking to assess the importance of a service for personal wellbeing. A spatial analysis revealed the importance of factors such as distance to home, the relation to specific land use types and the coexistence of different services. Finally, all results from spatial analysis of ecosystem service and vulnerability assessment were conveyed through the proposed framework. 

By utilising this approach, we are able to create a better understanding of the system, making climate change impacts and relationships between ecosystem functions, services and human benefits transparent. Discussing adaptation measures on this basis opens a two-way dialogue between researchers and stakeholders and fosters the cross-fertilisation of disciplines.