Planning and Design for Sustainable Places Lab

 

Contact:

Davide Geneletti

via Mesiano, 77 I-38123 Trento, Italy

davide.geneletti@unitn.it

Phone: +39 0461 282685

 

   authors: 

   journal: 

 

Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 62:1-13

 

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Design and impact assessment of watershed investments: An approach based on ecosystem services and boundary work

Abstract

 

Watershed investments, whose main aim is to secure water for cities, represent a promising opportunity for large-scale sustainability transitions in the near future. If properly designed, they promote activities in the watershed that enhance ecosystem services while protecting nature and biodiversity, as well as achieving other societal goals. In this paper, we build on the concepts of ecosystem services and boundary work, to develop and test an operative approach for designing and assessing the impact of watershed investments. The approach is structured to facilitate negotiations among stakeholders. Its strategic component includes setting the agenda; defining investment scenarios; and assessing the performance of watershed investments as well as planning for a follow-up. Its technical component concerns data processing; tailoring spatially explicit ecosystem service models; hence their application to design a set of “investment portfolios”, generate future land use scenarios, and model impacts on selected ecosystem services. A case study illustrates how the technical component can be developed in a data scarce context in sub-Saharan Africa in a way that is functional to support the steps of the strategic component. The case study addresses soil erosion and water scarcity-related challenges affecting Asmara, a medium-sized city in Eritrea, and considers urban water security and rural poverty alleviation as two illustrative objectives, within a ten-year planning horizon. The case study results consist in spatially explicit data (investment portfolio, land use scenario, impact on ecosystem services), which were aggregated to quantitatively assess the performance of different watershed investments scenarios, in terms of changes in soil erosion control. By addressing stakeholders' concerns of credibility, saliency, and legitimacy, the approach is expected to facilitate negotiation of objectives, definition of scenarios, and assessment of alternative watershed investments, ultimately, to contribute to implementing an adaptive watershed management.

 

 

   authors: 

 

A. La Notte

 

D. D'Amato

 

H. Mäkinen

 

M.L. Paracchini

 

C. Liquete

 

B. Egoh

 

D. Geneletti

 

N. Crossman

Ecosystem services classification: A systems ecology perspective of the cascade framework

Abstract

Ecosystem services research faces several challenges stemming from the plurality of interpretations of classifications and terminologies. In this paper we identify two main challenges with current ecosystem services classification systems: i) the inconsistency across concepts, terminology and definitions, and; ii) the mix up of processes and end-state benefits, or flows and assets. Although different ecosystem service definitions and interpretations can be valuable for enriching the research landscape, it is necessary to address the existing ambiguity to improve comparability among ecosystem-service-based approaches. Using the cascade framework as a reference, and Systems Ecology as a theoretical underpinning, we aim to address the ambiguity across typologies. The cascade framework links ecological processes with elements of human well-being following a pattern similar to a production chain. Systems Ecology is a long-established discipline which provides insight into complex relationships between people and the environment. We present a refreshed conceptualization of ecosystem services which can support ecosystem service assessment techniques and measurement. We combine the notions of biomass, information and interaction from system ecology, with the ecosystem services conceptualization to improve definitions and clarify terminology. We argue that ecosystem services should be defined as the interactions (i.e. processes) of the ecosystem that produce a change in human well-being, while ecosystem components or goods, i.e. countable as biomass units, are only proxies in the assessment of such changes. Furthermore, Systems Ecology can support a re-interpretation of the ecosystem services conceptualization and related applied research, where more emphasis is needed on the underpinning complexity of the ecological system.

 

Ecological Indicators, 74:392-402

 

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   authors: 

 

D. Rosaz-Vásquez

 

C. Fürst

 

D. Geneletti

 

F. Muñoz

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Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 62:135-146

Multi-actor involvement for integrating ecosystem services in strategic environmental assessment of spatial plans

Abstract

Integrating an ecosystem services (ES) approach into Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) of spatial plans potentially enhances the consideration of the value of nature in decision making and policy processes. However, there is increasing concern about the institutional context and a lack of a common understanding of SEA and ecosystem services for adopting them as an integrated framework. This paper addresses this concern by analysing the current understanding and network relations in a multi-actor arrangement as a first step towards a successful integration of ES in SEA and spatial planning. Our analysis focuses on a case study in Chile, where we administered a questionnaire survey to some of the main actors involved in the spatial planning process. The questionnaire focused on issues such as network relations among actors and on conceptual understanding, perceptions and challenges for integrating ES in SEA and spatial planning, knowledge on methodological approaches, and the connections and gaps in the science-policy interface. Our findings suggest that a common understanding of SEA and especially of ES in a context of multiple actors is still at an initial stage in Chile. Additionally, the lack of institutional guidelines and methodological support is considered the main challenge for integration. We conclude that preconditions exist in Chile for integrating ES in SEA for spatial planning, but they strongly depend on appropriate governance schemes that promote a close science-policy interaction, as well as collaborative work and learning.

 

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Science of The Total Environment, 579:957-965

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The anthroposphere as an anticipatory system: Open questions on steering the climate

Abstract

Climate change research and action counteracting it affect everyone and would involve cross-societal transformations reshaping the anthroposphere in its entirety. Scrutinizing climate-related science and policies, we recognize attempts to steer the evolution of climate according to expected (or modelled) futures. Such attempts would turn the anthroposphere into a large “anticipatory system”, in which human society seeks to anticipate and, possibly, to govern climate dynamics.
The chief aim of this discussion paper is to open a critical debate on the climate change paradigm (CCP) drawing on a strategic and systemic framework grounded in the concept of anticipatory system sensu Rosen (1991). The proposed scheme is ambitiously intended to turn an intricate issue into a complex but structured problem that is to say, to make such complexity clear and manageable. This framework emerges from concepts borrowed from different scientific fields (including future studies and system dynamics) and its background lies in a simple quantitative literature overview, relying upon a broad level of analysis. The proposed framework will assist researchers and policy makers in thinking of CCP in terms of an anticipatory system, and in disentangling its interrelated (and sometimes intricate) aspects. In point of fact, several strategic questions related to CCP were not subjected to an adequate transdisciplinary discussion:what are the interplays between physical processes and social-political interventions, who is the observer (what he/she is looking for), and which paradigm is being used (or who defines the desirable future).

 

Abstract

The provision of important river ecosystem services (ES) is dependent on the flow regime. This requires methods to assess the impacts on ES caused by interventions on rivers that affect flow regime, such as water abstractions. This study proposes a method to i) quantify the provision of a set of river ES, ii) simulate the effects of water abstraction alternatives that differ in location and abstracted flow, and iii) assess the impact of water abstraction alternatives on the selected ES. The method is based on river modelling science, and integrates spatially distributed hydrological, hydraulic and habitat models at different spatial and temporal scales. The method is applied to the hydropeaked upper Noce River (Northern Italy), which is regulated by hydropower operations. We selected locally relevant river ES: habitat suitability for the adult marble trout, white-water rafting suitability, hydroelectricity production from run-of-river (RoR) plants. Our results quantify the seasonality of river ES response variables and their intrinsic non-linearity, which explains why the same abstracted flow can produce different effects on trout habitat and rafting suitability depending on the morphology of the abstracted reach. An economic valuation of the examined river ES suggests that incomes from RoR hydropower plants are of comparable magnitude to touristic revenue losses related to the decrease in rafting suitability.

Assessing the impacts of water abstractions on river ecosystem services: an eco-hydraulic modelling approach

   authors: 

 

M. Carolli

 

D. Geneletti

G. Zolezzi

   journal: 

Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 63:136-146

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Modelling white-water rafting suitability in a hydropower regulated Alpine River

Abstract

Cultural and recreational river ecosystem services and their relations with the flow regime are still poorly investigated. We develop a modelling-based approach to assess recreational flow requirements and the spatially distributed river suitability for white-water rafting, a typical service offered by mountain streams, with potential conflicts of interest with hydropower regulation. The approach is based on the principles of habitat suitability modelling using water depth as the main attribute, with preference curves defined through interviews with local rafting guides. The methodology allows to compute streamflow thresholds for conditions of suitability and optimality of a river reach in relation to rafting. Rafting suitability response to past, present and future flow management scenarios can be predicted on the basis of a hydrological model, which is incorporated in the methodology and is able to account for anthropic effects. Rafting suitability is expressed through a novel metric, the “Rafting hydro-suitability index” (RHSI) which quantifies the cumulative duration of suitable and optimal conditions for rafting. The approach is applied on the Noce River (NE Italy), an Alpine River regulated by hydropower production and affected by hydropeaking, which influences suitability at a sub-daily scale. A dedicated algorithm is developed within the hydrological model to resemble hydropeaking conditions with daily flow data. In the Noce River, peak flows associated with hydropeaking support rafting activities in late summer, highlighting the dual nature of hydropeaking in regulated rivers. Rafting suitability is slightly reduced under present, hydropower-regulated flow conditions compared to an idealized flow regime characterised by no water abstractions. Localized water abstractions for small, run-of-the-river hydropower plants are predicted to negatively affect rafting suitability. The proposed methodology can be extended to support decision making for flow management in hydropower regulated streams, as it has the potential to quantify the response of different ecosystem services to flow regulation.

   authors: 

 

M. Carolli

G. Zolezzi

 

D. Geneletti

A. Siviglia

F. Carolli

O. Cainelli

   journal: 

Science of The Total Environment, 579:1035-1049

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Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 2017:1470

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B. Locatelli

 

S. Lavorel

 

S. Sloan

 

U. Tappeiner

D. Geneletti

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Abstract

Intensification of land use and management over recent decades has resulted in trade-offs between food or timber production and other ecosystem services (ES). Despite an increase in scholarly publications on ES, the temporal aspects of ES trade-offs have largely been neglected to date. Here we explore how past and future land-use trajectories (pathways of change) influence ES over time, using mountain landscapes as a model. Based on a synthesis of 51 cases of temporal changes in ES within mountain landscapes, we analyze how changes in land-use intensity influence the supply of ten key services and we describe six typical examples (archetypes) of ES change. Our analysis reveals that land-use intensity is an important factor shaping these archetypes. Land-use intensification often degrades ES (eg recreation and water regulation), with the exception of services targeted by intensification (food or timber) and with differences between forest and agricultural intensification. Service degradation following intensification is not always reversed by reductions in land-use intensity (termed “extensification”).

Characteristic trajectories of ecosystem services in mountains

 

A review of approaches and challenges for sustainable planning in urban peripheries

Abstract

As urban systems continue to grow worldwide, urban peripheries increase in number and typologies, which makes their planning a challenge for sustainable development. The aim of this article is to explore approaches and challenges related to the application of sustainable planning to urban peripheries. We reviewed the content of 102 papers related to sustainable planning in urban peripheries by applying a framework built on two main research questions that address: i) the type of peripheries and sustainable planning approaches considered; ii) the challenges and recommendations reported. The results show that urban peripheries are difficult to synthesize in operative classifications, and are not central in the discourse on sustainable planning approaches. The studies described are mainly context-specific and solution-oriented, aimed at responding to local socio-economic and ecological issues, and the analysis reveals uncertainties about their transferability to other geographical contexts. Few common trends can be highlighted, but many authors acknowledge the cross-cutting risks and trade-offs related to the complexity and dynamism of urban peripheries, which may eventually lead planning to unsustainable or unlivable outcomes. Integration among different scales and sectors emerges as a requirement for effective sustainable planning. We conclude with a remark on the underexploited opportunities offered by urban peripheries, especially with regard to ecological planning approaches.

   authors: 

 

D. Geneletti

D. La Rosa

M. Spyra

C. Cortinovis

   journal: 

Landscape and Urban Planning, 165:231-243

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Science of The Total Environment, 593-594:274-285

   journal: 

 

B. Adem Esmail

D. Geneletti

C. Albert

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Abstract

Boundary work, defined as effort to mediate between knowledge and action, is a promising approach for facilitating knowledge co-production for sustainable development. Here, we investigate a case study of knowledge co-production, to assess the applicability of boundary work as a conceptual framework to support implementing adaptive management in the water sector. We refer to a boundary work classification recently proposed by Clark et al., (2016), based on three types of knowledge uses, i.e. enlightenment, decision-, and negotiation-support, and three types of sources, i.e. personal expertise, single, and multiple communities of expertise. Our empirical results confirm boundary work has been crucial for the three types of knowledge use. For enlightenment and decision-support, effective interaction among knowledge producers and users was achieved through diverse boundary work practices, including joint agenda setting, and sharing of data and expertise. This initial boundary work eased subsequent knowledge co-production for decision-support and negotiations, in combination with stepping up of cooperation between relevant actors, suitable legislation and pressure for problem solving. Our analysis highlighted the temporal dimension matters - building trust around enlightenment first, and then using this as a basis for managing knowledge co-production for decision-, and negotiation support. We reconfirmed that boundary work is not a single time achievement, rather is a dynamic process, and we emphasized the importance of key actors driving the process, such as water utilities. Our results provide a rich case study of how strategic boundary work can facilitate knowledge co-production for adaptive management in the water sector. The boundary work practices employed here could also be transferred to other cases. Water utilities, as intermediaries between providers and beneficiaries of the important water-related ecosystem service of clean water provision, can indeed serve as key actors for initiating such boundary work practices.

Boundary work for implementing adaptive management: A water sector application

 

Degradation of natural habitats by roads:
Comparing land-take and noise effect zone

Abstract

Roads may act as barriers, negatively influencing the movement of animals, thereby causing disruption in landscapes. Roads cause habitat loss and fragmentation not only through their physical occupation, but also through traffic noise. The aim of this study is to provide a method to quantify the habitat degradation including habitat loss and fragmentation due to road traffic noise and to compare it with those of road land-take. Two types of fragmentation effects are determined: structural fragmentation (based on road land-take only), and functional fragmentation (noise effect zone fragmentation, buffer using a threshold of 40 dB). Noise propagation for roads with a traffic volume of more than 1000 vehicles per day was simulated by Calculation of Road Traffic Noise (CRTN) model. Habitat loss and fragmentation through land-take and noise effect zone were calculated and compared in Zagros Mountains in western Iran. The study area is characterized by three main habitat types (oak forest, scattered woodland and temperate grassland) which host endangered and protected wildlife species. Due to topographic conditions, land cover type, and the traffic volume in the region, the noise effect zone ranged from 50 to 2000 m which covers 18.3% (i.e. 516,929.95 ha) of the total study area. The results showed that the habitat loss due to noise effect zone is dramatically higher than that due to road land-take only (35% versus 1.04% of the total area). Temperate grasslands lost the highest proportion of the original area by both land-take and noise effect zone, but most area was lost in scattered woodland as compared to the other two habitat types. The results showed that considering the noise effect zone for habitat fragmentation resulted in an increase of 25.8% of the area affected (316,810 ha) as compared to using the land-take only (555,874 ha vs. 239,064 ha, respectively). The results revealed that the degree of habitat fragmentation is increasing by considering the noise effect zone. We conclude that, although the roads are breaking apart the patches by land-take, road noise not only dissects habitat patches but takes much larger proportions of or even functionally eliminates entire patches.

   authors: 

 

H. Madadi

 

H. Moradi

 

A. Soffianian

 

A. Salmanmahiny

 

J. Senn

D. Geneletti

   journal: 

Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 65:147-155

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Landscape and Urban Planning, 165:172-176

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D. La Rosa

D. Geneletti

M. Spyra

C. Albert

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Aims, background and research questions

As urban systems of varying intensity and character grow worldwide, peripheries increase both in number and typology, and their growth is highly dependent on local territorial and socio-economic conditions (UN-Habitat, 2013). Peripheries are the outcome of economic and political decision-making at different scales (global, national, regional or local), including the logic of uneven geographical development in capitalist societies, which can be present in both developed and less developed countries. In some parts of the world, urban peripheries are detached from physical, social, economic, institutional and cultural networks and are thus isolated from global flows (Castells, 1989).

Approaches to sustainable planning can be considered a combination of knowledge, science and creativity to design, evaluate and implement a set of justified actions within the public domain to achieve the three major dimensions of sustainability: environmental, economic and social (Berke & Conroy, 2000). It is crucial for planning research to increase understanding of how urbanisation processes in peripheral contexts might improve sustainability of peripheries and their wider metropolitan contexts. Furthermore, despite the growing body of research on sustainable planning of urban systems, many challenges remain to integrate approaches into real processes of planning, management and design, mainly due to the separation between suppliers and users of scientific information (Brandt et al., 2013).

This Special Issue aims to increase understanding of whether and how planning approaches can achieve sustainability goals in urban peripheries. Contributions of this Special Issue addressed the following research questions:

– What are the characteristics and peculiarities of urban peripheries worldwide?

– What are some approaches to sustainable planning of urban peripheries?

– How should existing planning approaches be updated or reformulated for more effective employment in urban peripheries?

– Which are some uncertainties and limitations about the effectiveness of these approaches?

– Which trade-offs can be identified and addressed by sustainable planning approaches within the context of urban peripheries?

These research questions were elaborated and discussed in a symposium held during the IUFRO-Landscape Ecology conference in Tartu, Estonia, in August 2015, in which guest editors and contributing authors participated.

Special issue on sustainable planning approaches for urban peripheries

 

Assessing habitat quality in relation to the spatial distribution of protected areas in Italy

Abstract

The conservation of species and habitats is increasingly threatened by anthropogenic impacts, particularly land use change, from local to global scales. Although many efforts have been carried out so far to halt or at least reduce the biodiversity loss (e.g., the establishment of protected areas' networks), there are still both knowledge and policy gaps slowing the conservation of species and habitats in complex environments, such as the Mediterranean region. In particular, the human-driven impacts and threats on biodiversity need more careful analysis. Accordingly, this paper aims to assess the habitat quality and degradation in Italy in relation with the spatial pattern of the current protected areas' network, mainly to identify priority areas of intervention, thus supporting large-scale conservation strategies.

A survey of experts was conducted to identify the main threats for biodiversity from different land uses at the national scale. The InVEST software was then applied to assess and map habitat quality and degradation with a high spatial resolution (20 m). The relationship between habitat quality and degradation as well as their hotspots, and alternative PA categories were also explored. Results indicate that: (i) habitat quality and degradation depend on the location and intensity of the anthropogenic impacts and are sensitive to different protection levels; (ii) the combination of the survey of experts and the spatially-explicit assessment of habitat quality and degradation is useful to highlight variations of the current conditions of biodiversity and habitats; and (iii) the identification of hotspots allows one to identify priority areas for conservation. Accordingly, the proposed approach may be used to strengthen the conservation efforts in similar contexts, and thus support the implementation of the biodiversity-related policies over the long term.

   authors: 

 

L. Sallustio

A. De Toni

A. Strollo

M. Di Febbraro

E. Gissi

L. Casella

D. Geneletti

M. Munafò

M. Vizzari

M. Marchetti

   journal: 

Journal of Environmental Management, 201:129-137

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Ecosystem Services, 26:225-235

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L. Zardo

D. Geneletti

M. Pérez-Soba

M. Van Eupen

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Abstract

Heatwaves are threatening human wellbeing in our cities, but Green Urban Infrastructures (GUI) can contribute to reduce temperatures and the associated health risks, by virtue of their cooling capacity. GUI present different typologies and consequently different key components, such as soil cover, tree canopy cover and shape, which determines their capacity to provide cooling. The aim of this study is to propose an approach to estimate the cooling capacity provided by GUI in order to generate useful information for urban planners. The methods are based on the review of the literature to identify the functions of GUI that are involved in providing cooling, and the components of GUI that determine those functions, and then to combine them to provide an overall assessment of the cooling capacity. The approach was used to assess 50 different typologies of GUI, which are result of different combinations of the components that influence the cooling, for three climatic regions. An illustrative case study in the city of Amsterdam show the applicability of the approach. This work provides a contribution in the panorama of Ecosystem Service assessment tools to support the mainstreaming of Ecosystem-based measures (such as the creation of GUI) in the planning practice.

Estimating the cooling capacity of green infrastructures to support urban planning

 

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A framework for assessing and implementing the co-benefits of nature-based solutions in urban areas

Abstract

To address challenges associated with climate resilience, health and well-being in urban areas, current policy platforms are shifting their focus from ecosystem-based to nature-based solutions (NBS), broadly defined as solutions to societal challenges that are inspired and supported by nature. NBS result in the provision of co-benefits, such as the improvement of place attractiveness, of health and quality of life, and creation of green jobs. Few frameworks exist for acknowledging and assessing the value of such co-benefits of NBS and to guide cross-sectoral project and policy design and implementation. In this paper, we firstly developed a holistic framework for assessing co-benefits (and costs) of NBS across elements of socio-cultural and socio-economic systems, biodiversity, ecosystems and climate. The framework was guided by a review of over 1700 documents from science and practice within and across 10 societal challenges relevant to cities globally. We found that NBS can have environmental, social and economic co-benefits and/or costs both within and across these 10 societal challenges. On that base, we develop and propose a seven-stage process for situating co-benefit assessment within policy and project implementation. The seven stages include: 1) identify problem or opportunity; 2) select and assess NBS and related actions; 3) design NBS implementation processes; 4) implement NBS; 5) frequently engage stakeholders and communicate co-benefits; 6) transfer and upscale NBS; and 7) monitor and evaluate co-benefits across all stages. We conclude that the developed framework together with the seven-stage co-benefit assessment process represent a valuable tool for guiding thinking and identifying the multiple values of NBS implementation.

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   authors: 

 

D. Geneletti

A. Biasiolli

A. Morrison-Saunders

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Land take and the effectiveness of project screening in Environmental Impact Assessment: Findings from an empirical study

Abstract

Land take is emerging as a global environmental concern, and is particularly critical in intensively developed and land-scarce regions. This paper seeks to understand the effectiveness of the screening stage of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in addressing land take. Screening is the stage where a decision is made as to whether an EIA is required for a project. In many jurisdictions, screening results in three pathways: full EIA directly, preliminary EIA only, or preliminary EIA followed by full EIA. We compared the land take of 217 projects triggering the different pathways in a study region in Italy over a 15-year time interval. Land take was quantified by overlaying the footprint of the projects with a land cover map.

The results show that while more attention was given to projects with larger land take impacts overall, the cumulative land take from smaller projects not triggering full EIA was considerable (40% of overall land take). The case-by-case examination conducted through the preliminary EIA was found to work better for some project types (ski areas and small urban development), than for others (quarries). Our findings lead us to advocate improvements in current screening procedures to ensure that the land take impacts are quantified and made explicit in preliminary EIA reports. Our evidence-based approach to determining land take in EIA provides a compelling basis for understanding ways to improve EIA policies, guidance and practice.

 

   authors: 

 

C. Fürst

S. Luque

D. Geneletti

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Nexus thinking-how ecosystem services can contribute to enhancing the cross-scale and cross-sectoral coherence between land use, spatial planning and policy-making

Abstract

The ecosystem service (ES) concept is acknowledged for its potential to support decision-making on various scales. Still, it lacks in practical implementation, particularly concerning spatial planning and land management – key aspects that lead to criticism in its applicability. ES in planning and decision-making can contribute to improve the quality of land use and management by integrating synergies, trade-offs and conflicts among economy, environment and societal goals. This opinion paper suggests a nexus approach that shows how ES can contribute to characterize the interactions between humans and nature on different temporal and spatial scales while integrating cross-scale effects in trade-off analyses. We discuss how our nexus approach can be implemented and contribute to revealing the interdependencies between policy sectors, spatial and land-use planning. We argue that thinking in terms of a nexus adds to an improved coherence across different policy sectors relevant for spatial planning. We conclude that only a strategic and concise use of ES throughout all decision levels will help to create maximum benefits for harmonizing policy, planning and management instruments supported by intervention measures for the sake of sustainable development.