Eric W. Sanderson and Lucinda Royte

Coastal cities such as New York City need to adapt their form and function as the climate changes. Many of those decisions could enhance depleted ecosystem services such as flood mitigation, carbon sequestration, and biodiversity support, if those services can be seen in the context of the population trends, water, food, and energy requirements, and the economic values of the city, including the dollar value that nature provides. Visionmaker 1.0 ( is an Internet-based ecosystem service decision-support platform for New York City, first implemented in 2013 for Manhattan and expanded city-wide in 2016, co-developed with the New York City Department of City Planning. The Visionmaker 1.0 platform enables three contrasting views into the user’s self-selected neighborhood: (1) the ecosystem services and values of that neighborhood modeled in 2013; (2) those same ecological functions modelled based on the pre-Contact historical ecology, circa 1609; and (3) ecosystem services and values that would result from the user’s own ideas about the configuration of ecosystems in the future. Ecosystems in this context are considered broadly to include buildings, streets and sidewalks, as well as forests, grasslands, and wetlands, and include modifiers of ecosystem function, such as green roofs, solar panels, bioswales, and bike lanes. Current efforts focus on re-building and modernizing Visionmaker 2.0, which wil generate 1.24-meter resolution maps of 72 ecosystems and 24 ecosystem modifier inputs on a city-wide basis and made freely available through the Visionmaker 2.0 platform and its ecosystem service models. We also plan to improve the underlying ecosystem service models that address flooding, update climate scenarios, and better validate the models, while creating new entry points for users to submit custom raster “visions” of the future of New York City and receive back results by API, enabling Visionmaker to serve other applications.

More information:
Visionmaker web page