Projected losses of ecosystem services in the US disproportionately affect non-white and lower-income populations

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Addressing how ecosystem services (ES) are distributed among groups of people is critical for making conservation and environmental policy-making more equitable. Here, we evaluate the distribution and equity of changes in ES benefits across demographic and socioeconomic groups in the United States (US) between 2020 and 2100. Specifically, we use land cover and population projections to model potential shifts in the supply, demand, and benefits of the following ES: provision of clean air, protection against a vector-borne disease (West Nile virus), and crop pollination. Across the US, changes in ES benefits are unevenly distributed among socioeconomic and demographic groups and among rural and urban communities, but are relatively uniform across geographic regions. In general, non-white, lower-income, and urban populations disproportionately bear the burden of declines in ES benefits. This is largely driven by the conversion of forests and wetlands to cropland and urban land cover in counties where these populations are expected to grow. In these locations, targeted land use policy interventions are required to avoid exacerbating inequalities already present in the US.


  • Jesse D. Gourevitch
  • Aura M. Alonso-Rodríguez
  • Natalia Aristizábal
  • Luz A. de Wit
  • Eva Kinnebrew
  • Caitlin E. Littlefield
  • Maya Moore
  • Charles C. Nicholson
  • Aaron J. Schwartz
  • Taylor H. Ricketts
External organisations
  • University of Vermont
  • University of California, Davis
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology
  • Public Administration Studies
  • Human Geography
Original languageEnglish
Article number3511
JournalNature Communications
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Dec
Publication categoryResearch