Ecosystem services are benefits that society receives from the natural environment – for example, the pollination of crops contributes to food production, and trees pull carbon from the air. By 2025, Ohio State aims to increase the amount and performance of its available greenspace while creating new living lab learning and research opportunities for students and faculty.
The University Panel on Ecosystem Services, which included faculty, staff and students, made a series of recommendations that are being implemented across the Columbus campus. The university has developed a unique Ecosystem Services Index that defines 15 different metrics across four categories for campus improvement: protection and conservation of core ecosystems; stormwater management and water quality; vegetation, soil and biodiversity; and quality of life.
Current goal achievement and initiatives
- Ecosystem Services Improvement (since 2020 baseline): 7%
- 2022 Ecosystem Services Index Score: 30.7%
- The university’s Sustainable Design and Construction policy includes an Ecosystem Services Assessment for projects to improve their impact on natural resources.
- At President Kristina Johnson’s initiative, the university planted 1,000 native trees on the Columbus campus in 2022, which will improve tree canopy over time.
- The realignment of Cannon Drive is creating new greenspace and Olentangy Trail connectivity along the Olentangy River’s east bank. The initial phase of the realignment project established 18 acres of new wetland and river corridor habitat, now named Cannon Drive Park. Through 2022, over 530 native trees have been planted at the Park. Future phases of the realignment project will continue to improve the river corridor’s ecosystem north of Cannon Drive Park.
- Embracing the university’s academic mission, the ecosystem goal includes expanding living lab opportunities for faculty and students on university campuses. These learning experiences range from studying aquatic systems to establishing native, edible horticultural landscapes.
University Panel on Ecosystem Services Report, August 2018
Sustainability in Action campus map and database of living lab projects