The uptake of the ecosystem services concept in planning discourses of European and American cities
Journal article, 2015
Ecosystem services (ES) are gaining increasing attention as a promising concept to more actively consider and plan for the varied benefits of the urban environment. Yet, to have an impact on decision- making, the concept must spread from academia to practice. To understand how ES have been taken up in planning discourses we conducted a cross-case comparison of planning documents in Berlin, New York, Salzburg, Seattle and Stockholm. We found: (1) explicit references to the ES concept were primarily in documents from Stockholm and New York, two cities in countries that entered into ES discourses early. (2) Implicit references and thus potential linkages between the ES concept and planning discourses were found frequently among all cities, especially in Seattle. (3) The thematic scope, represented by 21 different ES, is comparably broad among the cases, while cultural services and habitat provision are most frequently emphasized. (4) High-level policies were shown to promote the adoption of the ES concept in planning. We find that the ES concept holds potential to strengthen a holistic consideration of urban nature and its benefits in planning. We also revealed potential for further development of ES approaches with regard to mitigation of environmental impacts and improving urban resilience.