The ecosystem services concept: a new Esperanto to facilitate participatory planning processes?

  • Marcin SpyraEmail author
  • Janina Kleemann
  • Nuket Ipek Cetin
  • Cesar Jesús Vázquez Navarrete
  • Christian Albert
  • Igone Palacios-Agundez
  • Ibone Ametzaga-Arregi
  • Daniele La Rosa
  • Daniel Rozas-Vásquez
  • Blal Adem Esmail
  • Paolo Picchi
  • Davide Geneletti
  • Hannes J. König
  • HongMi Koo
  • Leena Kopperoinen
  • Christine Fürst
Research Article



Several case studies investigated the role of ecosystem services in participatory planning processes. However, no systematic study exists that cuts across a large number of empirical cases to identify the implications of using ecosystem services in participatory planning.


This study explores the potential of the ecosystem services concept to act as a boundary concept (“new Esperanto”) to facilitate the integration of actors’ perceptions and objectives into planning goals.


We analyzed eleven case studies to explore how the ecosystem services concept has been operationalized to support participatory planning processes, and to identify lessons from successful applications. We characterized the case studies according to contextual and methodological criteria. Each case study was assessed through a codified score card method in order to detect success or failure criteria in using the ecosystem services concept in participatory planning. We compared the case study criteria with the results of the balanced score card method.


We identified several positive effects of applying the ecosystem services concept in participatory planning, including the facilitation of knowledge sharing and consideration of local experiences, the support towards a shared vision, and the increased awareness among local actors concerning their role as ecosystem services suppliers or beneficiaries. Among the drawbacks, we identified the risk of overemphasizing specific ecosystem goods or services during the process.


We conclude by providing some recommendations to enhance future practice related to issues such as communication, use of local knowledge and integration of ecosystem services in existing legal instruments.


Case studies Comparative analysis Ecosystem services Landscape planning Participatory planning Stakeholders 



Authors would like to express their gratitude to the guest editors of this special issue of Landscape Ecology journal and to the anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on earlier version of this manuscript.

Supplementary material

10980_2018_745_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (496 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 496 kb). Fig. A1 Ecosystem services and ES types considered in the case studies (design inspired by Schröter et al. 2016)
10980_2018_745_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (111 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (PDF 110 kb)
10980_2018_745_MOESM3_ESM.jpg (206 kb)
Supplementary material 3 (JPEG 205 kb). Fig. A3 Scores of advantages by case studies with practical and theoretical use of the ecosystem services (ES) concept in participatory planning
10980_2018_745_MOESM4_ESM.docx (55 kb)
Supplementary material 4 (DOCX 55 kb)
10980_2018_745_MOESM5_ESM.docx (31 kb)
Supplementary material 5 (DOCX 31 kb)
10980_2018_745_MOESM6_ESM.pdf (92 kb)
Supplementary material 6 (PDF 92 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marcin Spyra
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Janina Kleemann
    • 1
    • 12
  • Nuket Ipek Cetin
    • 3
    • 4
  • Cesar Jesús Vázquez Navarrete
    • 5
  • Christian Albert
    • 6
  • Igone Palacios-Agundez
    • 7
    • 8
  • Ibone Ametzaga-Arregi
    • 7
    • 9
  • Daniele La Rosa
    • 10
  • Daniel Rozas-Vásquez
    • 11
    • 12
  • Blal Adem Esmail
    • 13
  • Paolo Picchi
    • 16
  • Davide Geneletti
    • 13
  • Hannes J. König
    • 14
  • HongMi Koo
    • 1
    • 12
  • Leena Kopperoinen
    • 15
  • Christine Fürst
    • 1
  1. 1.Department Sustainable Landscape Development, Institute for Geosciences and GeographyMartin-Luther University Halle-WittenbergHalleGermany
  2. 2.Faculty of Civil Engineering and ArchitectureOpole University of TechnologyOpolePoland
  3. 3.Urban and Regional Planning Department, Faculty of ArchitectureGebze Technical UniversityKocaeliTurkey
  4. 4.Graduate School of Science, Engineering and TechnologyIstanbul Technical UniversityIstanbulTurkey
  5. 5.Campus TabascoCardenasMexico
  6. 6.Institute of Environmental PlanningLeibniz University HannoverHannoverGermany
  7. 7.UNESCO Chair on Sustainable Development and Environmental EducationUniversity of the Basque Country—UPV/EHULeioaSpain
  8. 8.Mathematics and Experimental Sciences Didactics DepartmentUniversity of the Basque Country—UPV/EHULeioaSpain
  9. 9.Plant Biology and Ecology DepartmentUniversity of the Basque Country—UPV/EHULeioaSpain
  10. 10.Department Civil Engineering and ArchitectureUniversity of CataniaCataniaItaly
  11. 11.Laboratorio de Planificación Territorial, Facultad de Recursos Naturales, Departamento de Ciencias AmbientalesUniversidad Católica de TemucoTemucoChile
  12. 12.Department of Ecology and Natural Resources Management, Center for Development ResearchUniversity of BonnBonnGermany
  13. 13.Department of Civil, Environmental and Mechanical EngineeringUniversity of TrentoTrentoItaly
  14. 14.Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research (ZALF), Research Area Biotic Interactions between Forest and Agricultural LandMünchebergGermany
  15. 15.Land Use and Urbanisation Unit, Biodiversity CentreFinnish Environment Institute SYKEHelsinkiFinland
  16. 16.Academy of ArchitectureAmsterdam University of the ArtsAmsterdamThe Netherlands

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