Mario V Balzan, PhD, is a Senior Lecturer at the Institute of Applied Sciences, Malta College of Arts, Science & Technology (MCAST). He has a multidisciplinary background in environmental sciences. Past research investigates the factors affecting biodiversity and ecosystem services across spatio-temporal scales, their conservation, and the contribution of biodiversity to human well-being. He has published extensively on the management of biodiversity for sustainability, and participates in several EU-wide research projects on the topic. Dr Balzan coordinates research activities on biodiversity and ecosystem services of the MCAST Applied Environmental Sciences Research Group (AESReG), addressing sustainability issues that would benefit from multidisciplinary approaches to environmental management and policy-making.
Throughout history cities have grown and prospered by interdependency on rural environments and ecosystems providing services and goods to human societies and economies. These services are termed in more recent literature as ‘ecosystem services’, and are defined as the direct contributions that ecosystems make to human well-being. In urban areas, these include improved local climate regulation, flood control, access to food, availability of recreational spaces, and reduced health problems associated with urban living such as through exposure to excess noise and air pollution.
This work carries out a spatial assessment of the capacity of ecosystems to provide ecosystem services in the small island state of Malta, and the actual use (flow) of these services by the Maltese population. The services investigated include food production, biodiversity conservation, air quality regulation, and the recreational and aesthetic value of landscapes. The study utilises different available datasets, statistical models and indicators based on direct measurements. Individual indicators were mapped to visualise and compare their spatial patterns across the case study area. Subsequently, an analysis of associations between these services was carried out through statistical analysis. Results obtained here indicate an important contribution of rural landscapes and green urban areas to human well-being, supporting the notion that planning that develops green infrastructure can solve urban challenges and contributes significantly to the creation of future liveable cities that support biodiversity and human well-being. This presentation will analyse the potential contribution of green solutions for an improved quality of life in cities whilst conserving natural resources.