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What ecosystem services information do users want? Investigating interests and requirements among landscape and regional planners in Germany

Abstract

While political and scientific interests in ecosystem services (ES) information increases, actual implementation in planning still remains limited. We investigated how landscape and regional planners in Germany already use environmental information, and explored their perceptions concerning an integration of additional information on ES in their work. Four themes are addressed: (1) existing decision-making contexts, (2) current use of environmental information, (3) perceived options for integrating ES information, and (4) useful ES information formats. The research method consists of semi-structured interviews and a web-based survey with German landscape and regional planners. Results are disaggregated between landscape and regional planners, as well as planners with and without prior knowledge of the ES concept. Our results illustrate that a broad range of environmental information is already used that could be associated with ES, but the two most frequently consulted data, species and habitats, relate more to biodiversity. Stronger integrating ES information in planning was generally perceived as useful. However, implementation would often require a mandate from higher-ranking policy levels and the provision of appropriate resources. Project-oriented planning, public information and regional development were seen as promising application contexts. Contrary to our expectations, planners with prior knowledge of the ES concept did not evaluate the usefulness of ES information significantly more optimistic. No single optimal ES information format (ordinal, cardinal, economic valuation) emerged, but context-specific combinations were proposed. The results present valuable guidance for studies and assessments that aim at addressing the ES information needs and requirements of decision makers, and planners in particular.

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Acknowledgments

We would like to thank our interviewees and survey respondents for their time and willingness to take part in our study and to provide their insights and expertise. Furthermore, we would like to thank two anonymous reviewers who provided very helpful guidance and advice for the revision. We are grateful for the support of Bea Achtermann, Johannes Hermes, Frauke Lehrke and Felix Neuendorf who helped to set up the internet survey and to evaluate the results. And we thank Frank Schaarschmidt for analyzing our survey data with different statistical methods. Funding for the study was provided through a research grant for the project “QUANTIY-Quantifying Ecosystem Services as Decision Support in Landscape Planning” by Leibniz Universität Hannover.

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Correspondence to Christian Albert.

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Albert, C., Hauck, J., Buhr, N. et al. What ecosystem services information do users want? Investigating interests and requirements among landscape and regional planners in Germany. Landscape Ecol 29, 1301–1313 (2014) doi:10.1007/s10980-014-9990-5

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Keywords

  • Landscape services
  • Ecosystem services
  • Application
  • Landscape planning
  • Regional planning
  • Communication