Integration of ecosystem services in spatial planning: a survey on regional planners’ views

Abstract

Spatial plans shape land-use changes, which in turn are main drivers of anthropogenic ecosystem alterations, therefore influencing the ecosystem services (ES) delivered by a given territory. However, integration of the ES concept in policies and plans is reported as poor in literature. The main goal of this research is to gain insight on the views and perceptions of Portuguese regional spatial planners regarding the ES concept and its integration in spatial plans. For that we designed and administered a questionnaire survey aimed at practitioners and decision-makers from Portuguese regional spatial planning authorities. The survey focused on issues such as the level of awareness and knowledge of the ES concept among planners, the perceived level of current ES integration in regional spatial plans and corresponding strategic environmental assessments, the main factors that either facilitate or obstruct that integration, or the level of importance given to ES integration in the planning process. Findings show that planners know the ES concept, they consider it as important to be integrated in spatial planning and, interestingly, that it is already rather integrated in existing plans. They believe that planning teams and authorities have skilled human resources for ES integration. However, they revealed a low knowledge on the main initiatives intended to push ecosystem services into the political agenda, like for example the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. The questionnaire used can be easily transferred into other spatial planning contexts to draw, e.g. a broader European picture on ES integration in spatial planning.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    According to the European Common Classification of Territorial Units for Statistics.

  2. 2.

    Regional spatial plans can be conceived by third party organizations, other than the regional spatial planning authorities (for example private companies, universities or consortiums). However the authorities are responsible for accompanying plan elaboration and they are the ultimate legal responsible for the plans.

  3. 3.

    Sub-global assessment of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment for Portugal (Pereira et al. 2009).

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Acknowledgments

We thank all the planners who dedicated their time to fill-in the questionnaire and helped making this research possible. We also thank two anonymous reviewers whose comments helped improving the article. This work was financially supported by Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia, through grant SFRH/BD/79353/2011 (to André Mascarenhas).

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Correspondence to André Mascarenhas.

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Mascarenhas, A., Ramos, T.B., Haase, D. et al. Integration of ecosystem services in spatial planning: a survey on regional planners’ views. Landscape Ecol 29, 1287–1300 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10980-014-0012-4

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Keywords

  • Ecosystem services
  • Spatial planning
  • Strategic environmental assessment
  • Governance
  • Stakeholder survey