Integrating Ecosystem Services in Land Use Planning: Concepts and Applications

CID Research Fellow and Graduate Student Working Paper No. 54

January 2012

Integrating Ecosystem Services in Land Use Planning: Concepts and Applications

Davide Geneletti


Despite the attention that research on ecosystem services has attracted in recent years, its use to support real-life decision-making processes is still very limited, especially at the planning level. Land use and spatial planning result in actions that may affect the distribution and quality of a wide range of ecosystem services. Hence, decisions in this sector would benefit from systematic considerations of their effects on ecosystem services. This working paper is structured in two parts. Part I aims at providing insights on why it is important to promote ecosystem service-inclusive land use planning processes, and on how to do it by taking advantages of existing procedures, such as Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA). Possible actions to include relevant information in the various planning and SEA stages are presented. The advantages are then discussed by considering both the characteristics of ecosystem services approaches and the criteria of good-quality planning and SEA. Finally, four main challenges are identified, concerning scoping, scale issues, trade-offs and indicators, respectively. To provide a contribution to meeting these challenges, Part II presents an empirical application in land use planning. Specifically, the study aims at exploring how the implementation of different land use zoning policies can affect the future provision of a set of ecosystem services (water purification, soil conservation, habitat for species, carbon sequestration and timber production). Firstly, land use scenarios associated to different policies were constructed. Subsequently, the effects of the land use scenarios on the provision of the selected ecosystem services were assessed in a spatially explicit way, by using state-of-the-art modeling tools. Finally, a set of metrics was developed to compare scenarios and assess trade-offs. The results illustrate the importance of taking into account the spatial arrangement of land uses produced by different policies. The paper concludes by discussing the potential contribution of the approach to support spatial planning.

Keywords: spatial planning, ecosystem services, trade-offs, land use change, scenario analysis, strategic environmental assessment

JEL subject codes: Q01, Q56, Q57, Q24