Applying the ecosystem services approach to land use planning

Posted on July 20, 2015

Rivers and lakes contribute a wide variety of ecosystem services, including water supply, habitat provision, flood protection and recreational opportunities. However, methods of evaluating ecosystem services and integrating those values into aquatic management are still relatively new and continue to evolve. A framework for incorporating the aquatic ecosystem services approach into urban planning has been developed and applied to the city of Nanchang in south-east China. The framework takes the form of three sequential operations, the first of which is to group the various ecosystem services by category (provisioning, regulatory, cultural, supporting services) and to draw on a range of standard methods to assign values to them. In the next operation, geographical information systems are used to measure the extent of different types of landscape (e.g., wetland, woodland, farmland, urban construction) at different times in recent history. The probability of a given type of landscape being converted to a different type between one point in time and the next can then be calculated. In the final operation, the information on landscape change is used to predict future trends in land use and associated ecosystem services. In the case of Nanchang, between the mid-1990s and the mid-2000s there was a rapid increase in the rate at which wetland was lost to urban sprawl, with a related decrease in provisioning services. However, tighter wetland conservation policies have now been introduced and future predictions are for an overall increase in the total value of ecosystem services and the stabilisation of both provisioning services (food and water supply) and regulatory services (water purification, microclimate regulation).

Reference: Liu, Y. 2014. Dynamic evaluation on ecosystem service values of urban rivers and lakes: a case study of Nanchang City, China. Aquatic Ecosystem Health & Management 17(2), 161–170.