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A comparative exploration of uptake and potential application of ecosystem services in urban planning

Rall, Emily Lorance, Kabisch, Nadja, Hansen, Rieke
Ecosystem services 2015 v.16 pp. 230-242
case studies, cities, ecosystem services, environmental stewardship, interviews, issues and policy, stakeholders, urban areas, urban planning, New York
The concept of ecosystem services (ES) holds promise as a framework for more integrated urban planning, but its application in planning practice, including related challenges, remains an area of investigation. This paper seeks to help fill this gap through a comparative case study exploring current and potential application of ES in the cities of New York and Berlin. We examine: (1) how the concept of ES has been adopted, taking into consideration ES addressed in strategic planning documents as well as perceptions of the concept by key stakeholders in planning and management of urban green space, and (2) needs and challenges identified by stakeholders for green space planning and management. A multi-method design is used, combining literature review, content analysis of strategic plans and semi-structured key informant interviews. Findings reveal a reasonably high level of awareness, understanding and perceived importance of the concept but a much lower degree of uptake at an operational level. We identified a number of challenges which ES can address, including inter-departmental and multi-scale coordination, educating and engaging citizens in environmental stewardship, communicating strategy goals for the environment and assessing impacts of planning decisions. We conclude with implications for ES research and policy in urban areas.