Improving environmental amenities in residential mobility simulations with ecosystem services

Corentin Fontaine

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


When the city mouse seeks to come and live in the countryside, Aesop (620–564 BCE)’s classical fable starts faltering and landscape planning becomes a nightmare. That’s the reality of periurbanisation: people employed in urbanized or industrialized areas but living in rural areas. It is a famous phenomenon in certain parts of the world, and especially in Belgium where land-use regulation were belatedly (and somewhat badly) first implemented in the ‘60s. A large literature of different backgrounds (economist, geographers …) has been growing since Alonso’s first publication on urban economics (1964), revolving around the concept of a decreasing rent from the city centre to the countryside (a distance decay function). The theory has been proved right in many occasions, with numerous examples around the world. At the time of the century shift, the theory has been enhanced with the concept of environmental amenities: part of the rent (sometimes higher although farther the urban fringe) could be related to the surroundings of a location. Parks, nearby forest and other green externalities were identified as having a statistically significant influence on accommodation and land prices, beside the accessibility of the parcel from the city centre. A modern representation of these green externalities would be, evidently, the variety of cultural ecosystem services, e.g. landscape aesthetics, and even some regulating ones, such as flooding protection.
So far, virtually all residential mobility studies restrict the analysis to the direct relationship between households’ location and a greenness measure of the surroundings. This does not include much information on the quality of the neighbourhood, nor on the trajectory of change. Yet, Belgian periurban areas are now victims of their success: more and more want to locate in similar places. This phenomenon is also under scientific scrutiny, mainly with iterative simulations leading to an equilibrium when no more household would like to come. The approach is mainly additive: once an area is built up, it is deemed to remain urban; once a household as moved in, it stays.
In this presentation, I want to explore a different modelling path. First, an early arrived household in a neighbourhood may decide to move again at a later stage, e.g. when the area is too crowded according to their standards. The accommodation can be taken over, so the demographics change but not necessarily the artificial surface on that location (the relocation process implies a new artificial surface, somewhere else, though). Hence, the simulated world should integrate this non-linear evolution. Second, ecosystem services can be an interesting substitute of a general measure of greenness since there are a growing number of indicators and measurement techniques. Household’s location choices are thus driven by a more complex set of preferences. Third, residential mobility is only one type of agents impacting on the land use, hence on a region’s ES provisions (in quantities and qualities). Therefore, one needs to consider other important land-use decision makers such as farmers, forest managers and policy makers. The spatial-temporal system needs to be taken as a whole. Aesop’s city mouse and country mouse are being replaced by new generations of highly complex, but colourful, mice.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2014
Event7th Annual Ecosystem Services Partnership Conference 2014: Local action for the common good (ESP2014) - San José, Costa Rica
Duration: 8 Sept 201412 Sept 2014

Scientific committee

Scientific committee7th Annual Ecosystem Services Partnership Conference 2014: Local action for the common good (ESP2014)
Country/TerritoryCosta Rica
City San José


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