Ecosystem services potential is declining across European capital metropolitan areas

Artan Hysa*, Roland Löwe, Juergen Geist

*Corresponding author for this work

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Ecosystem services (ES) are essential to sustainable development at multiple spatial scales. Monitoring ES potential (ESP) at the metropolitan level is imperative to sustainable cities. We developed a procedure for long-term monitoring of metropolitan ESP dynamics, utilizing open-source land use land cover (LULC) data and the expert matrix method. We compared the ESP results of 38 European Capital Metropolitan Areas (ECMA) regarding biodiversity integrity, drinking water provision, flood protection, air quality, water purification, and recreation & tourism. Our results show significant declines in ESP across ECMA due to LULC alteration between 2006, 2012, and 2018. We found that ECMA in post-socialist European countries like Poland (Warszawa) have experienced high rates of land use transformation with a remarkable impact on ESP. Surprisingly, we found that Fennoscandinan ECMA, like Helsinki, Stockholm, and Oslo which lead the cumulative ESP ranking, faced the ESP reduction of the highest impact in recent years. The correlation analysis of ESP dynamics to urban expansion and population growth rates suggests that inattentive urbanization processes impact ESP more than population growth. We unveil the implications of our results to the EU and global level agendas like the European Nature Conservation Law and the Sustainable Development Goals.
Original languageEnglish
Article number8903
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - 2024


  • Nature-based solutions
  • Sustainable development goals
  • Blue-green infrastructure
  • Urban development
  • European studies
  • Freshwaters


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