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Ecosystem services in urban plans: What is there, and what is still needed for better decisions

Cortinovis, C. and Geneletti, D. (2018) Ecosystem services in urban plans: What is there, and what is still needed for better decisions. Land Use Policy, 70 . pp. 298-312.

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In cities, land-use decisions made during planning processes determine the availability of ecosystem services fundamental to the wellbeing of urban population. Hence, the inclusion of ecosystem services in planning is essential to promote sustainable urban development. This article investigates to what extent ecosystem services are currently included in urban plans. The ultimate objective is to understand what ecosystem service information is already used, and what is still needed to improve planning decisions. We developed a methodology to review the content of planning documents irrespective of the terminology adopted to refer to ecosystem services, and examined the inclusion of nine urban ecosystem services across three plan components. In our sample of 22 urban plans of Italian cities, we found a high number of actions to address urban ecosystem services and a variety of tools for implementation. However, a two-speed integration emerges: a set of ecosystem services (i.e. recreation and some regulating services linked to typical urban environmental problems) are widely addressed, while others are hardly considered. Shortcomings can be partly ascribed to gaps in the scientific literature. Usable methods to assess urban ecosystem services at the right scale and resolution while also accounting for the multi-functionality of urban green infrastructures are still needed. On the other hand, future urban plans would benefit from a further appropriation of the ecosystem service approach by practitioners and decision-makers. Acknowledging the whole range of urban ecosystem services, defining strategic objectives related to their provision, and explicitly identifying demand and beneficiaries could increase awareness of the values at stake, ensure long-term commitment in the implementation phase, and strengthen planning arguments against conflicting interests.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Environmental Science
Publisher: Elsevier BV
Copyright: © 2017 Published by Elsevier Ltd
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