The Project

April 2024 - starting the second phase...

Project description

The production of ecosystem services is essential for cities to adapt to climate change in the Canadian Prairies. Practices that reduce water consumption, control extreme temperatures, protect urban wildlife, and promote physical and mental health will also be fundamental to preserving individual and community well-being.

Our study aims to identify the challenges and opportunities to create a market for suburban ecosystem services in Calgary, AB, and Saskatoon, SK, by taking advantage of the potential of suburban areas to become nature-based assets. We look at the benefits and costs of transforming front yards from lawns into native/pollinator front gardens, which constitute notable producers of ecosystem services related to health and environmental quality.

We determine the potential of suburban areas to produce ecosystem services and the spatial influence of the benefits of native/pollinator gardens. Knowing the challenges of sustaining ecosystem service markets in the long run, we also propose to study the feasibility of a demand for suburban ecosystem services by identifying the obstacles (i.e., opportunity costs) that producers (homeowners) face and the economic values that users give to these services.

We adopt an innovative and interdisciplinary approach consisting of spatial analysis based on geographic information systems, preference elicitation to identify producers’ challenges, experimental design to estimate users’ willingness to pay (WTP) for ecosystem services, and cost-benefit analysis to determine market feasibility. The research findings will inform the design of urban policies and planning for adaptation to climate change and preserving well-being in cities in the Canadian Prairies. 

This research project is funded by the Alberta Land Institute, University of Alberta.

Alberta Land Institute logo


Note: A donation on behalf of the participants in the survey experiment "Urban Ecosystem Services", was made to the Native Plant Society of Saskatchewan Inc. - Habitat Restoration Program (2023). 

The Team

Dr. Oscar Zapata

Dr. Ana Karinna Hidalgo         Research


Graduate students

Runli Yuan

I am a master’s student majoring in plant science with a bachelor's degree in Gardening. I am working on getting the native plant species catalogue in Alberta and Saskatchewan, like their botanical names, light or soil preferences etc. The next stage of my job is cooperating with others to have an urban landscape proposal.


Mahzad Pourmand

I am a second-year master's student in Economics at the University of Saskatchewan, with a Bachelor's degree in the same field. I am working on my final thesis in Energy Economics, specifically analyzing energy intensity in Canada and its influencing factors. Moreover, I work as a research assistant with Dr. Hidalgo and Dr. Zapata. My responsibilities as a research assistant are to design economic experiments, develop online experiment protocols, recruit participants, conduct online experiments, analyze data, and report findings for the "Transforming Suburban Areas: A Marketplace for Urban Ecosystem Services" research program. I contribute to research in urban planning, ecosystem services, and healthy cities through collaboration with an interdisciplinary team.


Ashish Bhandari

I am a graduate student of Master of Water Security at the University of Saskatchewan, with a Bachelor's degree in Civil Engineering and a Master's degree in Geo-informatics. Currently, I am working as a Graduate Research Assistant in a Suburban Ecosystem Services Project. My role as a Research Assistant is to develop a GIS database for suburbia using Statistics Canada and CANUE data that help to develop a model and study environmental conditions change in suburbia.

Undergraduate students

Ava Dulos

I am a Bachelor of Arts honours graduate in Regional and Urban Planning, with a certificate in urban design. My current work as a research assistant focuses on supplying the necessary graphics and images for the research study. Through photomontages and photo editing, I am designing suburban lawns with native plant species from Saskatchewan and Alberta to reflect better ecosystem services. Later as a research assistant, I am also planning on working on the creation of the urban landscape proposal catalogue.


Experimental design

Non-market valuation

Geographic data analysis




“From Lawn to Biodiversity. Producing Ecosystem Services in Suburban Areas” – at the Thirteenth International Conference on The Constructed Environment, Manoa, Hawaii (May 2023)



"Biodiversity in the City: Transforming Suburbia in the Prairies" at the 2023 SPPI Annual Conference 'Planning in the Prairies'. The Saskatchewan Professional Planners Institute conference was held on September 25-26 in Saskatoon. 

Our presentation showed the current environmental qualities and demographics of suburban areas of Calgary, AB and Saskatoon, SK. and the possible impacts of providing ecosystem services if increasing biodiversity in these areas. We proposed a native species catalogue and landscape design to inform homeowners and city decision-makers about using native species in front yards. This catalogue and landscape design will also inform the next steps in our research.

 Presentation at the SPPI Annual Conference, Saskatoon SK

 "Ecosytem services and biodiversity preservation in Prairie suburban areas" presented during the Prairies Got the Goods Week Webinar Series, Saskatchewan Prairie Conservation Action Plan (March 19, 2024). 

"Pollinator gardens and ecosystem services in the Prairies" presented for the Conversations Series, Wild About Saskatoon on March 21, 2024.

 Conversations - Wild About Saskatoon


Pollinator plants catalogue - Native species in the Prairies

Catalogue documents/pollinators-catalogue.pdf



Spatial Analysis


Understanding environmental features in Suburbian Neighbourhoods:
Calgary AB and Saskatoon SK