, Volume 15, Issue 2, pp 293-314
Date: 19 Apr 2011

Rediscovering the value of urban rivers

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Abstract

Rivers commonly serve as defining, founding features of human settlements, yet urbanisation has degraded them, often to the extent that they no longer provide the services to society from which the settlements developed. Urban river restoration has expanded in recent years and part of this can be attributed to the increased recognition of the interconnected benefits that restored ecosystems can provide to society. This paper reviews the impact of urbanisation on rivers and the ecosystem services that they provide, and explores the ecosystem approach to restoration. Techniques and tools for the practical application of the ecosystem services approach in conservation are considered, with reference to case studies. There is a need to internalise ecosystem service insights into pragmatic, transparent and readily-used and understood planning tools, based on the capacities of a range of ecosystem services in river corridors. This is necessary if we are to avoid the continued erosion of critical resources such as rivers, rediscovering their multiple values to society, and to accelerate the translation of these sustainability concepts into applied tools.