Spatial variation of ecosystem services, biodiversity and human health

The interest of the ecosystem service concept - benefits that human derives from ecosystems - has increased recently, especially since the release of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA). After the MA and The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity study (TEEB), the awareness of the negative impacts of the biodiversity loss have on human well-being have increased. In addition, many studies have shown that biodiversity and ecosystem services have intrinsic link to each other, with biodiversity playing a key role at all the levels of ecosystem services.

Despite recent findings, there is still a need to estimate the spatial connection between the areas which produce ecosystem services and supports physical structure that makes up biodiversity. To date few studies have evaluated the spatial concordance among biodiversity, geodiversity and ecosystem (dis-) services, especially in the northern environments.

Climate change and the degradation of ecosystems are among the biggest global health threat of the 21st century. Global climate change and the associated changes in emissions of air pollution, concentrations of allergenic pollen, ecosystems and land use impact both outdoor and indoor exposures which have adverse effects on human health. Physical geography research group is contributing to a research program that applies multidisciplinary research methodologies to respond to health impacts related to global climate change. In addition to addressing adverse health effects, our research program focuses on ecosystem services and functions that promote public health and human well-being.

13.4.2018 Researcher

Jan Hjort

14.5.2018 Researcher

Janne Alahuhta

19.2.2019 Researcher

Terhi Ala-Hulkko

19.2.2019 Researcher

Marja Lindholm

1.2.2019 Researcher

Ossi Kotavaara

11.2.2019 Researcher

Helena Tukiainen

Main objectives

  • To study how biodiversity, geodiversity and ecosystem services co-vary geographically in Finland across spatial scales
  • To explore the geographical relationships between human settlements and ecosystem services
  • To develop methodologies to map health-related ecosystem services and predict the distribution of allergenic pollen and concentrations of air pollutants in urbanized areas across scales

Main collaborators

  • Professor Jouni Jaakkola (Center for Environmental and Respiratory Research, CERH, University of Oulu)
  • Professor Jaakko Kukkonen (Finnish Meteorological Institute, FMI, Helsinki)
  • Associate Professor Richard Field, School of Geography, University of Nottingham, UK
  • Dr. Joseph Bailey

Current Projects

  • Global geographic accessibility to food resources: Exploring spatial mismatch between food production, consumption and transport system by using big and open source data (funding from Kone Foundation).
  • Introducing accessibility analysis in mapping ecosystem services (funding from Alfred Kordelin Foundation)

Past projects


  • Meriö, L.J., Ala-aho, P., Linjama, J., Hjort, J., Kløve, B. & H. Marttila (In press). Snow to precipitation ratio controls catchment storage and summer flows in boreal headwater catchments. Water Resources Research. DOI:10.1029/2018WR023031
  • Ala-Hulkko, T., Kotavaara, O., Alahuhta, J. & J. Hjort (2019). Mapping supply and demand of a provisioning ecosystem service across Europe. Ecological Indicators 103, 520-529.
  • Perez Rocha, M.P., Bini, L.M., Domisch, S., Tolonen, K.E., Jyrkankallio-Mikkola, J., Soininen, J., Hjort, J. & J. Heino (2018). Local environment and space drive multiple facets of stream macroinvertebrate beta diversity, while climate and catchment features are less important. Journal of Biogeography 45, 2744–2754.
  • Alahuhta, J., Ala-Hulkko, T., Tukiainen, H., Purola, L., Akujärvi, A., Lampinen, R. & J. Hjort (2018). The role of geodiversity in providing ecosystem services at broad scales. Ecological Indicators 91, 47–56.
  • Hugg, T.T., Hjort, J., Antikainen, H., Rusanen J., Tuokila, M., Korkonen, S., Weckström, J, Jaakkola, M.S. & J.J.K. Jaakkola (2017). Urbanity as a determinant of exposure to grass pollen in Helsinki Metropolitan area, Finland. PlosONE 12, e0186348.
  • Varanka, S. & J. Hjort (2017). Spatio-temporal aspects of the environmental factors affecting water quality in boreal rivers. Environmental Earth Sciences 76, 21.
  • Vilmi, A., Alahuhta, J., Hjort, J., Kärnä, O.-M., Leinonen, K., Perez Rocha, M., Tolonen, K.E., Tolonen, K.T. & J. Heino (2017). Geography of global change and species richness in the North. Environmental Reviews 25, 184–192.
  • Alahuhta, J., Kosten, S., Akasaka, M., Auderset, D., Azzella, M., Bolpagni, R., Bove, C., Chambers, P., Chappuis, E., Ilg, C., Clayton, J., De Winton, M., Ecke, F., Gacia, E., Gecheva, G., Grillas, P., Hauxwell, J., Hellsten, S., Hjort, J., Hoyer, M., Kolada, A., Kuoppala, M., Lauridsen, T., Li, E.-H., Lukács, B., Mjelde, M., Mikulyuk, A., Mormul, R., Nishihoro, J., Oertli, B., Rhazi, L., Rhazi, M., Sass, L., Schranz, C., Søndergaard, M., Yamanouchi, T., Yu, Q., Wang, H., Willby, N., Zhang, X.-K. & J. Heino (2017). Global variation in the beta diversity of lake macrophytes is driven by environmental heterogeneity rather than latitude. Journal of Biogeography 44, 1758–1769.
  • Tukiainen, H., Alahuhta, J., Ala-Hulkko, T., Field, R., Lampinen, R. & J. Hjort (2017). Spatial relationship between biodiversity and geodiversity across a gradient of land use intensity in high-latitude landscapes. Landscape Ecology 32, 1049–1063.
  • Tukiainen, H., Bailey, J.J., Kangas, K., Field, R. & J. Hjort (2017). Combining geodiversity with climate and topography to account for threatened species richness. Conservation Biology 31, 364–375.
  • Hjort, J., Hugg, T.T., Antikainen, H., Rusanen, J., Sofiev, M., Kukkonen, J., Jaakkola, M.S. & J.J.K. Jaakkola (2016). Fine-scale exposure to allergenic pollen in the urban environment: evaluation of land use regression approach. Environmental Health Perspectives 124, 619–626.
  • Ala-Hulkko, T., Kotavaara, O., Alahuhta, J., Helle, P. & J. Hjort (2016). Introducing accessibility analysis in mapping cultural ecosystem services. Ecological Indicators 66, 416–427.
  • Hjort, J., Suomi, J. & J. Käyhkö (2016). Extreme urban-rural temperatures in the coastal city of Turku, Finland: Quantification and visualization based on a generalized additive model. Science of the Total Environment 569–570, 507–517.
  • Varanka, S., Hjort, J. & M. Luoto (2015). Geomorphological factors predict water quality in boreal rivers. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms 40, 1989–1999.
  • Kuusisto-Hjort, P. & J. Hjort (2013). Land use impacts on trace metal concentrations of suburban stream sediments in the Helsinki region, Finland. Science of the Total Environment 456–457, 222–230.
  • Suomi, J., Hjort, J. & J. Käyhkö (2012). Effects of scale on modelling the urban heat island in Turku, SW Finland. Climate Research 55, 105–118.
  • Hjort, J., Suomi, J. & J. Käyhkö (2011). Spatial prediction of urban-rural temperatures using statistical methods. Theoretical and Applied Climatology 106,139–152.