Heat waves and floods in urban areas: A policy-oriented review of ecosystem services

Yaella Depietri, Fabrice G. Renaud, Giorgos Kallis

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleResearchpeer-review

80 Citations (Scopus)


Urbanisation is increasing and today more than a half of the world's population lives in urban areas. Cities, especially those where urbanisation is un-planned or poorly planned, are increasingly vulnerable to hydro-meteorological hazards such as heat waves and floods. Urban areas tend to degrade the environment, fragmenting and isolating ecosystems, compromising their capacity to provide services. The regulating role of ecosystems in buffering hydro-meteorological hazards and reducing urban vulnerability has not received adequate policy attention until now. Whereas there is a wide body of studies in the specialised biological and ecological literature about particular urban ecosystem features and the impacts of hazards upon people and infrastructures, there is no policy-driven overview looking holistically at the ways in which ecosystem features can be managed by cities to reduce their vulnerability to hazards. Using heat waves and floods as examples, this review article identifies the aggravating factors related to urbanisation, the various regulating ecosystem services that buffer cities from hydro-meteorological impacts as well as the impacts of the hazards on the ecosystem. The review also assesses how different cities have attempted to manage related ecosystem services and draws policy-relevant conclusions. © 2011 Integrated Research System for Sustainability Science, United Nations University, and Springer.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-107
JournalSustainability Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2012


  • Ecosystem services
  • Environmental vulnerability
  • Floods
  • Heat waves
  • Inland water systems
  • Urban areas


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