Urban Ecosystems

, Volume 22, Issue 1, pp 173–187 | Cite as

Urban ecosystem Services in Latin America: mismatch between global concepts and regional realities?

  • Cynnamon DobbsEmail author
  • Francisco J. Escobedo
  • Nicola Clerici
  • Francisco de la Barrera
  • Ana Alice Eleuterio
  • Ian MacGregor-Fors
  • Sonia Reyes-Paecke
  • Alexis Vásquez
  • Jorge Danilo Zea Camaño
  • H. Jaime Hernández


Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) is one of the most urbanized and biologically diverse regions in the world but is often characterized by weak environmental governance and socioeconomic inequalities. Given large expanses of intact biomes, a long history of pre-Colombian civilizations, and recent urbanization trends, the urban ecosystem services (UES) concept has the potential to address issues of well-being for its citizens. We review relevant regional and global literature and use expert-based knowledge to identify the state of the art of the UES concept as applicable to green spaces in LAC and elucidate three overarching guidelines for management and future research needs: 1. LAC cities can be socio-ecologically unique; 2. Drivers of UES in LAC can be different than in other regions; and 3. Context and demand need to be accounted for when valuing UES. Overall, we show that research on UES is mostly from the global north and rarely accounts for the diverse and complex socio-political and ecological drivers of LAC’s urbanization processes. We find that, as in other regions, the biophysical context and land use policies play a major role on UES provision. However, socioeconomic inequalities and weak governance are key drivers in UES supply and demand in LAC. Context-specific information on how to promote, educate, and apply UES is particularly important, not only in LAC, but in other regions where inequities, rapid urbanization, and climate change effects are stressing socio-political and ecological systems and their adaptive capacities. Standardized approaches from developed countries should be used to complement - not substitute – LAC context specific approaches for studying and applying UES. We suggest that improved research funding and local governance can also provide critical strategies, information and the means for more effective management, planning, and equitable provision of UES.


Green infrastructure Socio-ecological systems Urban ecology Governance Social inequities 



We thank Nina Singh –USA, Juliana Montoya Arango – Colombia, and Ina Falfán -Mexico for their helpful reviews. HJH is supported by FONDECYT 1140319 “Vegetation knowledge-based indicators for urban sustainable planning”; CD is supported by FONDECYT 3150352 “Provision of urban ecosystem services, exploring the effects of planning, urbanization, climate and environmental conditions on the urban forest of Santiago and La Serena”; FDB is supported by FONDECYT 3150351 “Modelación de servicios ecosistémicos de parques urbanos en sectores metropolitanos”. SR is supported by FONDECYT 1161709 “Contribucion del enfoque de servicios ecosistémicos a la planificación urbana”; FDB and SR are supported by CONICYT/FONDAP 15110020.

Supplementary material

11252_2018_805_MOESM1_ESM.docx (62 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 61 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cynnamon Dobbs
    • 1
    Email author
  • Francisco J. Escobedo
    • 2
  • Nicola Clerici
    • 2
  • Francisco de la Barrera
    • 3
  • Ana Alice Eleuterio
    • 4
  • Ian MacGregor-Fors
    • 5
  • Sonia Reyes-Paecke
    • 6
  • Alexis Vásquez
    • 7
  • Jorge Danilo Zea Camaño
    • 8
  • H. Jaime Hernández
    • 9
  1. 1.Center for Modeling and Monitoring EcosystemsUniversidad MayorSantiagoChile
  2. 2.Functional and Ecosystem Ecology Unit (EFE), Biology Program, Faculty of Natural Sciences and MathematicsUniversidad del RosarioBogotáColombia
  3. 3.Geography Department and Center for Sustainable Urban DevelopmentUniversidad de ConcepcionConcepcionChile
  4. 4.Instituto Latino-Americano de Economía, Sociedade e PolíticaUniversidade Federal da Integração Latino-AmericanaFoz do IguaçuBrazil
  5. 5.Red de Ambiente y Sustentabilidad, Instituto de Ecología, A.CVeracruzMexico
  6. 6.Department of Ecosystems and Environment, Faculty of Agronomy and Forest Engineering and Center for Sustainable Urban DevelopmentPontificia Universidad Católica de ChileMaculChile
  7. 7.Geography Department, Faculty of Architecture and Urban PlanningUniversidad de ChileSantiagoChile
  8. 8.Universidade Federal do ParanáCuritibaBrazil
  9. 9.Geomatics and Landscape Ecology Lab, Faculty of Forestry and Nature ConservationUniversidad de ChileLa PintanaChile

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