In this study, we develop urban ecosystem accounts in the U.S., using the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting Experimental Ecosystem Accounting (SEEA EEA) framework. Most ecosystem accounts focus on regional and national scales, which are appropriate for many ecosystem services. However, ecosystems provide substantial services in cities, improving quality of life and contributing to resiliency for substantial parts of the population. Our models estimate energy savings for indoor cooling resulting from heat mitigated by trees and rainfall intercepted by trees. Both models cover major cities in the contiguous U.S. and report the results through physical supply and use tables for multiple accounting periods (2011 and 2016). Using conservative assumptions, urban trees provide substantial heat mitigation (4,098 and 4,229 GWh, valued at $523 and $539 million in 2011 and 2016, respectively) and rainfall interception (2,422 and 2,627 million m3, valued at $434 and $425 million for 2011 and 2016, respectively). Interannual differences largely reflect variations in weather patterns. Our work shows how Earth observation data can support urban ecosystem accounting. We provide model code within a public repository to facilitate model runs elsewhere, enabling the SEEA EEA and Earth observation user communities to reuse our models and provide feedback for improvement.
Read the article in the journal Ecosystem Services.