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Valuation of ecosystem services of a nascent urban park in east Los Angeles, California


People protect what they value, yet different people assign value to nature in different ways. The monetary valuation of ecosystem services (ES) is a strategy to estimate the worth of benefits provided by nature to humans and is increasingly common in cities where human populations are densest. Most ES valuation of urban areas are at the city scale with few studies at the parcel level, yet urban land decisions are typically made at the parcel level. Here we approximated the monetary value of ecosystem services for a single nascent urban park in the United States’ second most populous city, Los Angeles. Acknowledging no single method can capture the entire ES value of a location, we use four approaches to approximate a value range for this site. Using a combination of unoccupied aerial vehicle imagery and ground-truthing surveys, the park was partitioned by dominant land cover types to assess values derived from literature estimates, tree canopy features, and collected field-based metrics of all individual trees over 1.5 m height using the ecosystem service valuation functions of the i-Tree software suite. We also applied a more novel market-based approach to approximate the park’s overall value. We found calculated dollar values across and within the land cover types varied by orders of magnitude between assessment approaches yet were generally low due to limited mature vegetation cover. The present study is unique in providing a baseline assessment for a recently opened, highly urban park in a low-income, park-poor neighborhood of Los Angeles. More broadly, it provides ES valuation at the data-lacking parcel scale which is needed to better understand the ecological role and function of green spaces in cities.

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The authors acknowledge that this study site is on the ancestral lands of the indigenous Gabrielino/Tongva people. The authors sincerely thank the anonymous reviewer and community stakeholders for manuscript feedback, including Jerry Schneider, Kat Superfisky, Steve Dunlap, and Joe Laskin, and thank the LMU Biology Department and LMU Office of Research & Creative Arts for research support. The authors thank Kyle Cavanaugh and Cami Pawlak for generous collaboration on UAV images. D. Willette also thanks Marga Joaquin for logistical support.



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KW and DAW designed the study, conducted field work and data analysis, and wrote the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Demian Alexander Willette.

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The authors whose names are listed immediately below certify that they have NO affiliations with or involvement in any organization or entity with any financial interest (such as honoraria; educational grants; participation in speakers’ bureaus; membership, employment, consultancies, stock ownership, or other equity interest; and expert testimony or patent-licensing arrangements), or nonfinancial interest (such as personal or professional relationships, affiliations, knowledge or beliefs) in the subject matter or materials discussed in this manuscript. Author names: Kesterlyn Wilson, Demian Willette.

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Wilson, K., Willette, D.A. Valuation of ecosystem services of a nascent urban park in east Los Angeles, California. Urban Ecosyst (2022).

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  • Cities
  • Ecosystem
  • Open space park
  • Valuation