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.

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


  • Professor Jan Hjort
  • Dr. Janne Alahuhta
  • Dr. Harri Antikainen
  • Researcher Terhi Järvinen
  • Project researcher Henna Sormunen

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
  • Researcher Joseph Bailey

Main publications

  • 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.
  • Hjort, J., Heikkinen, R.K. & M. Luoto (2012). Inclusion of explicit measures of geodiversity improve biodiversity models in a boreal landscape. Biodiversity and Conservation 21, 3487–3506.
  • 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.


Last updated: 19.11.2014