A social-ecological-technological systems framework for urban ecosystem services

Timon McPhearson, Elizabeth M. Cook, Marta Berbés-Blázquez, Chingwen Cheng, Nancy B. Grimm, Erik Andersson, Olga Barbosa, David G. Chandler, Heejun Chang, Mikhail V. Chester, Daniel L. Childers, Stephen R. Elser, Niki Frantzeskaki, Zbigniew Grabowski, Peter Groffman, Rebecca L. Hale, David M. Iwaniec, Nadja Kabisch, Christopher Kennedy, Samuel A. MarkolfA. Marissa Matsler, Lauren E. McPhillips, Thaddeus R. Miller, Tischa A. Muñoz-Erickson, Emma Rosi, Tiffany G. Troxler

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

75 Scopus citations


As rates of urbanization and climatic change soar, decision-makers are increasingly challenged to provide innovative solutions that simultaneously address climate-change impacts and risks and inclusively ensure quality of life for urban residents. Cities have turned to nature-based solutions to help address these challenges. Nature-based solutions, through the provision of ecosystem services, can yield numerous benefits for people and address multiple challenges simultaneously. Yet, efforts to mainstream nature-based solutions are impaired by the complexity of the interacting social, ecological, and technological dimensions of urban systems. This complexity must be understood and managed to ensure ecosystem-service provisioning is effective, equitable, and resilient. Here, we provide a social-ecological-technological system (SETS) framework that builds on decades of urban ecosystem services research to better understand four core challenges associated with urban nature-based solutions: multi-functionality, systemic valuation, scale mismatch of ecosystem services, and inequity and injustice. The framework illustrates the importance of coordinating natural, technological, and socio-economic systems when designing, planning, and managing urban nature-based solutions to enable optimal social-ecological outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)505-518
Number of pages14
JournalOne Earth
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 20 2022


  • ban ecosystem services
  • cities
  • nature-based solutions
  • social-ecological-technological systems, SETS

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Environmental Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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