Change in ecosystem service values in the San Antonio area, Texas Academic Article uri icon


  • San Antonio is one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in the USA. Urban sprawl may significantly impact ecosystem services and functions but such effects are difficult to quantify and watershed-level estimates are seldom attempted. The objective of the study reported here was to determine whether LANDSAT MSS could be used to quantify changes in land-use and ecosystem services due to urban sprawl in Bexar County, TX, in which San Antonio is centered. The size of six land cover categories in the summer of 1976, 1985, and 1991 were estimated in the 141 671 ha of three watersheds in Bexar County. Coefficients published by Costanza and co-workers in 1997 [Nature 387 (1997) 253] were used to value changes in ecosystem services delivered by each land cover category, and a sensitivity analysis was conducted to determine the effect of manipulating these coefficients on the estimated values. Although we estimated that there was a 65% decrease in the area of rangeland and a 29% increase in the area of urbanized land use between 1976 and 1991, there appeared to be only a 4% net decline in the estimated annual value of ecosystem services in the study area (i.e. $5.58 ha-1 per year, with a 15-year cumulative total value of $6.24 million for the whole study area). This relatively small decline could be attributed to the neutralizing effect of the estimated 403% increase in the area of the woodlands, which were assigned the highest ecosystem value coefficient. When we assumed that the shift of rangelands to woodlands produced no net change in the value of ecosystem services per hectare, the estimated annual ecosystem service value declined by 15.4% ($23.22 ha-1 per year) between 1976 and 1991. When conducting time-series studies of ecosystem services, it is important to identify parallel changes in land cover types in order to quantify the potentially neutralizing influence of positive land cover changes on the negative effects of urban sprawl on ecosystem services. Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Kreuter, U. P., Harris, H. G., Matlock, M. D., & Lacey, R. E.

citation count

  • 358

complete list of authors

  • Kreuter, UP||Harris, HG||Matlock, MD||Lacey, RE

publication date

  • December 2001