Global urbanization creates opportunities and challenges for human well-being and transition towards sustainability. Urban areas are human-environment systems that depend fundamentally on ecosystems, and thus require an understanding of the management of urban ecosystem services to ensure sustainable urban planning. The purpose of this study is to provide a systematic review of urban ecosystems services research, which addresses the combined domain of ecosystem services and urban development. We examined emerging trends and gaps in how urban ecosystem services are conceptualized in peer-reviewed case study literature, including the geographical distribution of research, the development and use of the urban ecosystem services concept, and the involvement of stakeholders. We highlight six challenges aimed at strengthening the concept's potential to facilitate meaningful inter- and transdisciplinary work for ecosystem services research and planning. Achieving a cohesive conceptual approach in the research field will address (i) the need for more extensive spatial and contextual coverage, (ii) continual clarification of definitions, (iii) recognition of limited data transferability, (iv) more comprehensive stakeholder involvement, (v) more integrated research efforts, and (vi) translation of scientific findings into actionable knowledge, feeding information back into planning and management. We conclude with recommendations for conducting further research while incorporating these challenges. © 2015 Elsevier B.V.
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