Ecosystem Services

Ecosystem services are the benefits people receive from healthy ecosystems. There are four categories of benefit: Provisioning Services, Regulating Services, and Supporting and Cultural Services. An example of a provisioning service is food, like food from locally grown organic crops, whereas an example of a regulating service is plants’ ability to naturally sequester carbon and improve air quality.

Supporting services come from the protection of biological diversity, and cultural services are, simply, aspects of nature that bring delight to people. In today’s urban and suburban areas, landscape disturbance and fragmentation prevent riparian ecosystems like the LA River from effectively providing these benefits. With thoughtful ecology-based planning, an urban river can play a pivotal role in establishing a connective network of functional and diverse habitats. These interconnected habitats both support ecological functioning as well as provide important ecosystem services that benefit people by naturally improving water quality, expanding open space, reducing urban heat island and preserving water resources through infiltration.

Historically the Los Angeles River was composed of a diverse range of plant communities ranging from deciduous hardwoods to grassland, producing a “landscape scale mosaic of predominantly willows, cottonwoods, sycamores, oaks, and marsh species.”1 The diversity of these plant and animal communities have declined with rapid urbanization and the concrete channelization of the river banks for flood control.

Flora and Fauna of the Ballona Wetlands

1 Beagle J, S Baumgarten, RM Grossinger, RA Askevold, Stanford B. 2014. Landscape Scale Management Strategies for Arroyo Mocho and Arroyo Las Positas: Process-Based Approaches for Dynamic, Multi-Bene t Urban Channels. SFEI Publication #714, San Francisco Estuary Institute, Richmond, CA.