Integrating accessibility analysis in ecosystem service and disservice mapping

Thesis event information

Date and time of the thesis defence

Place of the thesis defence

Linnanmaa, lecture hall L10. Remote connection:

Topic of the dissertation

Integrating accessibility analysis in ecosystem service and disservice mapping

Doctoral candidate

Master of Science Terhi Ala-Hulkko

Faculty and unit

University of Oulu Graduate School, Faculty of Science, Geography

Subject of study



Adjunct professor Petteri Vihervaara, Finnish Environment Institute


Professor Jan Hjort, University of Oulu

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Accessibility analysis provides new information about the balance between people and nature

A well-known spatial method within the field of transport and health geography provides new approaches for measuring people’s ability to utilize ecosystem services. According to this doctoral thesis, it can be utilized in assessing people’s possibilities to reach outdoor recreation sites, the balance between food supply and demand, and the negative impacts of ecosystems to people.

Ecosystem services, such as food, materials and recreation, are benefits that people derive from nature. In addition to the benefits, ecosystems can also cause disadvantages, or so-called disservices. For example, ticks have raised a lot of discussion in the media, as they are the primary vectors of several dangerous diseases.

The main aim of this doctoral thesis is to test the applicability of spatial accessibility analysis to assess the availability and access of different ecosystem services and disservices. Thesis utilizes extensive data on the geographical distribution of ecosystem services and disservices, population and transport network.

Supply does not always meet the demand

According to the results of this doctoral thesis, the accessibility of different recreational sites varies widely in Finland. There are both recreation areas that are difficult to access and areas with a high potential for overuse. For instance, the Nuuksio national park in the Helsinki metropolitan area is the nearest park for hundreds of thousands of Finns.

The mismatch between supply and demand can also be detected when analyzing the food production and consumption in Europe. The capacity of an ecosystem to provide services exceeds especially in the middle of the Europe. Ala-Hulkko’s thesis shows that majority of the countries would benefit significantly by balancing the supply and demand of food at international level, even at close distances.

Analysis detected the high-risk tick areas

When evaluating the exposure risk to ticks using accessibility analysis, it can be indicated that the risk of tick encounters in residential areas and around free-time residences is relatively low. The highest tick abundances are along the coastline and shore areas in Finland’s Lakeland region. The risk of getting Lyme borreliosis from tick contacts around free-time residences is 5%. About 9% of school-age children have a risk of getting Lyme borreliosis during a school trip.

This doctoral thesis gives evidence that the spatial accessibility analysis approach can provide easy-to-read maps and useful tools for decision-makers to manage natural resources in a sustainable way. Furthermore, it has great potential to be utilized in public health strategies for minimizing tick-borne diseases.
Last updated: 1.3.2023