Geosystem services:A concept in support of sustainable development of the subsurface

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Because functions of the subsurface are hidden from view, its important role in society is often taken for granted. Underground use in cities and subsurface resource extraction rapidly increase. Ensuring sustainability of the subsurface role requires balancing between exploitation and conservation, recognizing the non-renewability of abiotic resources and the long time cycles in the subsurface.This paper introduces the concept of geosystem services as a framework to analyze the issue of sustainable use of the subsurface in a systemic and holistic manner. Four main elements make up the framework: geosystems, services, values, and governance. Complementarity between the concepts of geosystem and ecosystems services is highlighted by classifying geosystem services in provisioning, regulating, cultural and supporting services. Geosystem services are distinguished from ecosystem services by systematically reflecting on three cross-cutting themes (i.e. space, scale and time). Applying the concept of 'geosystem services' results in improved integration in areas where trade-offs occur between 'geosystem services' stemming from the subsurface and 'ecosystem services' at surface. The geosystem services concept helps framing a more sustainable process of urbanization, and contributes to a spatially explicit linkage of (mineral) resource production to consumption, environmental impacts on the ecosystem and (global) governance of resources and resource efficiencies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)30-36
JournalEcosystem Services
Early online date24 Jun 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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