NATURE SUSTAINABILITY - Natural infrastructure in sustaining global urban freshwater ecosystem services

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October 21, 2021 - Author: <chungm13@msu.edu>, Kenneth A. Frank, Yadu Pokhrel, <tdietz@msu.edu> and <kenfrank@msu.edu><liuji@msu.edu>

NATURE SUSTAINABILITY - Natural infrastructure in sustaining global urban freshwater ecosystem services

Doi: 10.1038/s41893-021-00786-4

Rapid urbanization throughout the globe increases demand for fresh water and the ecosystem services associated with it. This need is conventionally met through the construction of infrastructure. Natural infrastructure solutions have increased to provide freshwater ecosystem services, but little global research has examined the intricate relationships between built and natural infrastructure for providing freshwater ecosystem services to cities across the globe. Using network analysis, here we examine the interrelationships between built and natural infrastructure in 2,113 watersheds for 317 cities worldwide, focus- ing on four key freshwater ecosystem services: freshwater provision, sediment regulation, flood mitigation and hydropower production. Our results indicate that protected wetlands contribute to sustaining freshwater provision to cities. Forest cover in protected areas can improve the capacity of large dams in reducing sediment loads and producing hydropower, but cities mainly depend on reduced impervious surfaces and more green spaces within urban areas for flood mitigation. Improved understandings of the role of natural infrastructure in urban water networks must underpin strategic decision-making to sustainably pro- vide freshwater ecosystem services to global cities.

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