Cities Biodiversity Center


URBES - Urban Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services


URBES was a three-year research project funded by BiodivERsA that aimed to bridge the knowledge gap on the links between urbanization, ecosystem services and biodiversity. URBES ran from 2012 through to 2014.

Urban landscapes are the everyday environment for the majority of the global population and more than 75 per cent of Europeans live in urban areas. The continuous increase in the number and size of urban regions, and the ensuing transformation of landscapes on different scales, pose great challenges for reducing the rate of loss of biodiversity and for ensuring human welfare.

The understanding of how urban ecosystems work, how they change and what limits their performance, can add to the understanding of ecosystem change and governance in general in an ever more human-­dominated world.

URBES built on case studies of four European cities: Berlin, Rotterdam, Salzburg and Stockholm. Some studies were also done on the cities of Barcelona, Helsinki and New York. The research consortium consisted of eleven world-leading research institutes on social-ecological studies of urban areas, based in Europe and one in USA (New York). Helsinki University and The New School (New York) participated as self-funded partners.


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The nine Work Packages have their own milestones, goals and research strategies. This page gives an introduction to the project's research structure and updates on the activities within the WP's. For more info on the underlying research foundation, please see About.

URBES structure

URBES consists of four clusters, each managing 2-3 work packages:

WP 0, Coordination and management. Lead: Stockholm Resilience Centre (SRC)

Cluster I: Urban Biodiversity, Ecosystem Services and Land Use

WP 1, Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. Lead partner: SRC. Participating partners: The Beijer Institute for Ecological Economics (Beijer), Humboldt University (HU), University of Salzburg (US), University of Helsinki (UH), Tishman Environment and Design Center (TEDC)

WP 2, Future Urban Land Use. Lead partner: HU. Participating partners: SRC, Erasmus University Rotterdam with the Dutch Research Institute For Transitions (DRIFT), Technical University of Munich (TUM), Mistra Urban Futures (MiUF), Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), US, UH, TEDC.

Cluster II: Valuation of Urban Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services

WP 3, Monetary Valuation. Lead partner: Beijer. Participating partners: Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW), HU.

WP 4, Non-monetary Valuation. Lead partner: US. Participating partners:TUM, HU, SRC, UAB, IfW, TEDC.

WP 5, Synthesis and Multi-Criteria Assessment. Lead partner: UAB. Participating partners: TUM, IfW, US, Beijer, SRC, TEDC.

Cluster III: Governance and Management of Urban Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services

WP 6, Land Use Scenarios and Strategies. Lead partner: Mistra Urban Futures. Participating partners:SRC, HU, US, DRIFT, TUM, UH.

WP 7, Governance and Institutions. Lead partner: DRIFT. Participating partners: SRC, Mistra Urban Futures, Beijer, US, UAB, UH. Subcontracted: IUCN, ICLEI (ICLEI Europe and Cities Biodiversity Center).

Cluster IV: Commuication and Training

WP 8, Communication and Dissemination. Lead partner: SRC Subcontracted: IUCN, ICLEI.

WP 9, Training and Capacity Building. Lead partner: SRC. Subcontracted: ICLEI, IUCN.


Recent literature indicates that urban biodiversity contributes to multiple ecosystem services crucial for the citizens’ well-being and urban biodiversity may also be part of decreasing the ecological footprint. Examples of important urban ecosystem services include: i) reductions in local air pollution and noise, ii) reductions of the urban heat island effect, iii) direct health benefits, e.g. presence of street trees has been found to be associated with a significantly lower prevalence of early childhood asthma, and accessibility to green areas has also been linked to reduced mortality and increase in general health, iv) key environments for enhanced public ecological knowledge and awareness of local to global sustainability challenges.

Such urban ecosystems are generated by a diverse set of environments including parks, cemeteries, watercourses, avenues, gardens and yards, verges, commons, green roofs and facades, sports fields, vacant lots, industrial sites and landfills. The management of urban ecosystems must, however, be connected to the social-ecological dynamics of the built-up parts. Further, the total dependence of cities on the surrounding landscape and its biodiversity, as well as the ever ongoing interactions between urban, peri-urban and rural are key to address the sustained generation of ecosystem services and overall urban resilience.

A key aspect of the URBES work is the outreach work as communication and training, for which we have subcontracted our partners IUCN and ICLEI.

The role of IUCN and ICLEI in the URBES project is to influence the local, regional and international policy arenas through a collaboratively developed extensive communication and capacity building programme. This will firstly focus on translating the outcomes of the project in accessible messages which will be disseminated to several audiences in Europe. Secondly, ICLEI and IUCN will present examples of ecosystem services for cities to a variety of stakeholders in Europe and build capacities in a selected group of local authorities in Europe, on the sustainable management of ecosystems services and natural resources.

About IUCN

IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, helps the world to find pragmatic solutions to our most pressing environment and development challenges. IUCN believes that increasing people’s understanding of the benefits of green spaces can help to strengthen sustainable urban development, in particular by connecting the city landscape with the ecological landscape outside the city boundaries.

IUCN considers the URBES project an excellent partnership for cities and local governments to become better informed on the value of natural capital for sustainable urban life and increasingly contribute to biodiversity conservation and improved management of ecosystems services in Europe. IUCN’s work focuses on valuing and conserving nature, ensuring effective and equitable governance of its use, and deploying nature-based solutions to global challenges in climate, food and development.

IUCN is the world’s oldest and largest global environmental organization, with more than 1,200 government and NGO members and almost 11,000 volunteer experts in some 160 countries. IUCN’s work is supported by over 1,000 staff in 45 offices and hundreds of partners in public, NGO and private sectors around the world.


ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability is the world's leading association of cities and local governments dedicated to sustainable development. ICLEI is a powerful movement of 12 mega-cities, 100 super-cities and urban regions, 450 large cities as well as 450 small and medium-sized cities and towns in 84 countries.

ICLEI promotes local action for global sustainability and supports cities to become sustainable, resilient, resource-efficient, biodiverse, low-carbon; to build a smart infrastructure; and to develop an inclusive, green urban economy. The ultimate aim is to achieve healthy and happy communities. We have developed stable, long-term programs to support local-level sustainability and continue to develop innovative new programs to respond to issues of international concern.

Contact details

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Over-all project management: Professor Thomas Elmqvist and Maria Schewenius, MSc

Visiting address: Stockholm Resilience Centre, Kräftriket 9A, 106 91 Stockholm, Sweden