University of Oulu

Terhi Ala-Hulkko, Ossi Kotavaara, Janne Alahuhta, Pekka Helle, Jan Hjort, Introducing accessibility analysis in mapping cultural ecosystem services, Ecological Indicators, Volume 66, 2016, Pages 416-427, ISSN 1470-160X,

Introducing accessibility analysis in mapping cultural ecosystem services

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Author: Ala-Hulkko, Terhi1,2; Kotavaara, Ossi1; Alahuhta, Janne1,3;
Organizations: 1Department of Geography, University of Oulu, P.O. Box 3000, FI-90014 University of Oulu, Finland
2Thule Institute, University of Oulu, P.O. Box 7300, FI-90014 University of Oulu, Finland
3Finnish Environment Institute, Freshwater Centre, P.O. Box 413, FI-90014 University of Oulu, Finland
4Natural Resources Institute Finland, P.O. Box 413, FI-90014 University of Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: accepted version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.9 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Elsevier, 2016
Publish Date: 2020-06-18


In recent years, there has been an increasing interest in the study of the spatial link between service providing areas (SPA) and service benefiting areas (SBA). Understanding the spatial link between SPAs and SBAs is essential when studying the ecosystem service delivery and the fulfilment of ecosystem service demand. However, far too little attention has been paid to the user movement related ecosystem services and where people should be geographically situated in order to benefit from these services. In the movement related services, benefiting areas are equal to providing areas and the spatial link from residential area to SPA is important. The spatial link is addressed through the concept of accessibility which determines the opportunity to move from the area where beneficiaries are located to areas where ecosystem services are produced.

This study presents an accessibility approach to the ecosystem services research. Accessibility analyses offer an opportunity to identify the gap between the ecosystems’ potential to produce services and the actual usage possibilities of such services. We demonstrate the suitability of the method by using outdoor recreation and cultural heritage as examples of cultural ecosystem services that people actively want to reach. Accessibility was calculated using a geographical information system-based least-cost path analysis, which measures travel time by car between residential location and the nearest SPA via road network.

The examples highlight that accessibility varies according to the ecosystem service and depends mostly on population distribution and travel possibilities. Our results demonstrate that the density of the analysed ecosystem service opportunities is higher near urban areas than elsewhere. The accessibility of different ecosystem services also depends on how much time people are willing to spend for reaching these services. Our study emphasised that, from a population perspective, accessibility analyses provide a powerful tool for illustrating the utilisation possibilities of spatially distributed ecosystem services. The accessibility approach offers great potential to assess the potential use of SPAs and respond to the need to develop a practical tool for ecosystem service research. It effectively shows, for example, the areas where the risk of overuse of ecosystem services is increased. Knowing about the regional differences in ecosystem service usage also gives background information for the decision-makers for drawing conclusions about how much and where it is sensible to invest in the maintenance of ecosystem services.

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Series: Ecological indicators
ISSN: 1470-160X
ISSN-E: 1872-7034
ISSN-L: 1470-160X
Volume: 66
Pages: 416 - 427
DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolind.2016.02.013
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1171 Geosciences
1172 Environmental sciences
Funding: JH acknowledges the Academy of Finland (grant numbers 267995 and 285040).
Academy of Finland Grant Number: 267995
Detailed Information: 267995 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
285040 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
Copyright information: © 2016 Elsevier Ltd. This manuscript version is made available under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 license