Scale and context dependence of ecosystem service providing units

Erik Andersson, Timon McPhearson, Peleg Kremer, Erik Gomez-Baggethun, Dagmar Haase, Magnus Tuvendal, Daniel Wurster

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

124 Citations (Scopus)


© 2014 Elsevier B.V. Ecosystem services (ES) have been broadly adopted as a conceptual framing for addressing human nature interactions and to illustrate the ways in which humans depend on ecosystems for sustained life and well-being. Additionally, ES are being increasingly included in urban planning and management as a way to create multi-functional landscapes able to meet the needs of expanding urban populations. However, while ES are generated and utilized within landscapes we still have limited understanding of the relationship between ES and spatial structure and dynamics. Here, we offer an expanded conceptualization of these relationships through the concept of service providing units (SPUs) as a way to plan and manage the structures and preconditions that are needed for, and in different ways influence, provisioning of ES. The SPU approach has two parts: the first deals with internal dimensions of the SPUs themselves, i.e. spatial and temporal scale and organizational level, and the second outlines how context and presence of external structures (e.g. built infrastructure or larger ecosystems) affect the performance of SPUs. In doing so, SPUs enable a more nuanced and comprehensive approach to managing and designing multi-functional landscapes and achieving multiple ES goals.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)157-164
JournalEcosystem Services
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2015


  • Ecosystem services
  • Scale
  • Service providing unit
  • Supporting structures
  • Urban ecosystems


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