Urban Ecosystem Services to support the design process in urban environment. A case study of the Municipality of Milan

Nature capital is a vital resource for providing numerous Ecosystem Services (ESs) important for human welfare and survival (Costanza et al., 1997), mainly in urban areas where human activities undermine urban ecosystems but reduce ecosystem functions and capacities to provide services (Kreuter et al., 2001), due to environmental deterioration and landscape fragmentation (Englund, et al., 2017). Moreover, cities contribute to the overall well-being of the citizens by providing several different private and public services. The mapping and evaluation of the ESs in urban areas should consider and account for both natural and artificial services.In the Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, the European Commission has stressed the role of the ESs in the protection of biodiversity both in natural and anthropized environments, and the need for their comprehensive mapping, monitoring or assessing, to enhance the knowledge and awareness and to ensure the EU’s resilience, climate change mitigation and adaptation (European Commission, 2020).

One of the most accepted definition of ESs describes them as the value humans obtain, whether social, economic or ecological, from natural ecosystems (both wild and managed) and the flora and fauna species they comprise (Alcamo and Bennett, 2003). Moreover, they are commonly categorized into four groups in-cluding supporting services (e.g., biodiversity and habitat), provisioning services (e.g., food and water), regulating services (e.g., temperature regulation, noise reduction, and air purification) and cultural services (e.g., recreation, aesthetics and cognitive development) (Croci et al., 2021).ES knowledge can generate actions by supporting the formulation and structuring of the decision problem and the identification of criteria for screening, ranking and spatial-targeting of the alternatives (Cortinovis and Geneletti, 2018).

Urban society is disconnected and independent from ecosystems, but demand for ecosystem services is increasing because citizens are aware of their crucial role in reconnecting cities to the biosphere, restoring local commons, reducing ecologi-cal footprints, orchestrating disciplinary fields and stakeholder perspectives, guid-ing policies to improve quality of life and, finally, guaranteeing long-term conditions for life, health, good social relations and other important aspects of human well-being (Gómez-Baggethun et al., 2013).Cities seek to increase the amount and quality of green space to ensure benefits to different groups of citizens (Cortinovis and Geneletti, 2018) and the study of ESs in urban environment is emerging as an important research frontier for the incorporation of these benefits in the urban context (Kremer et al., 2016).

The inclusion of ESs knowledge in urban spatial planning processes can con-tribute to highlight existing needs, to define standards and policy targets, to de-sign implementation tools, to support the selection and fine-tuning of alternatives (Cortinovis and Geneletti, 2018). “Urban ecosystem service” (UESs) defined as “aspects of ecosystems that are generated from natural capital in combination with human-derived capital, and that contribute, directly or indirectly, to human well-being in urban areas” (Tan et al., 2020), are an innovative concept to describe and measure ESs in urban environment and shape urban landscapes to be more sustainable and liveable (Haase et al., 2014; Luederitz et al., 2015). They refer to a very wide range of benefits provided mainly by a diverse range of urban elements covering natural ecosystems, constructed ecosystems, and to a limited extent, the abiotic components of cities. In fact, as ESs highlight human dependence on natural ecosystems, UESs rein-force the idea that ecosystems services can be locally produced in urban areas to support human well-being in tangible and intangible ways. UESs encompass both ESs belonging to the natural environment and a wide range of services produced by humans, including housing, transport, education, entertainment, or medical care.

So, although urbanization leads to a general dissociation of urban dwellers from nature (Turner et al., 2004), UESs provide opportunities for urban dwellers to experience nature (Andersson et al., 2015) and acts as a social tool to bring together diverse stakeholders to foster community driven (Luederitz et al., 2015) and government-led planning (Rall et al., 2015) for urban sustainability.More than in rural and natural areas, in the urban context the balance and competition between natural and human capital is a relevant factor for the economic development and the liveability. The UESs can support the comprehension and measurement of the trade-off between increased provision of human services triggered by a management choice (Verhagen et al., 2018) and/or human intervention and the reduced provision of natural ones (Deng et al., 2016; Haase et al., 2012; Rodríguez et al., 2006). The knowledge of trade-offs may support decision-making and policy instrument design (Verhagen et al., 2018) up to European scale (Ruijs et al., 2013), by avoiding the loss of important UESs and promoting synergies between different UES (Burkhard et al., 2014; Carreno et al., 2012).

As, different types of UESs are produced depending on which scale is applied, and which boundaries are used to define the ecosystem of interest, mapping them is essential because can allow full assessment and quantification of UESs (Cross-man et al., 2013, Yang et al., 2019), including the spatial distance between providing areas and benefiting areas (Fisher et al., 2009; Bastian et al., 2012). Mapping can be also crucial for the evaluation of the benefits of the UES (Sylla et al., 2020). Both monetary and non-monetary methods have been applied to assess the value of ecosystems in decision-making. Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis (MCDA) is suited for integrated valuation of ecosystem services because it can combine information about the performance of the alternatives with respect to evaluation criteria with subjective judgments about the relative importance of the criteria in a particular decision-making context (Vatn, 2009).

The present paper aims at analysing, mapping, and evaluating different types of UESs both of natural and human origin in the case study of the municipality of Milan, by applying the methodology developed by Burkhard et al. (2009; 2012; 2014). A MCDA approach has been implemented to synthetize and map the UESs, combine objective and subjective assessments (ref.), and support the Decision-Maker (DM) in designing the most suitable solution among a set of alternatives (Roy, 1985; 2005).MCDA allows multiple sources of information and value dimensions to be combined, to address UES-related issues within the urban planning framework and offers a structured way and balance diverse and sometimes competing interests (Cortinovis and Geneletti, 2018). Moreover, combining MCDA and UES approach improves the urban planning tools and aids decision-making to maximize multiple ESs benefits to increase human wellbeing in cities (Kremer et al., 2016).Our study comes on top of other recent papers which have studied the contribution to UES to the sustainability and planning in European and non-European cities. In particular, Gómez-Baggethun et al., (2013) recognized the provision of water supply, flood mitigation, coastal zone protection and tourism as important UES to the City of Cape Town and described programs and projects aimed at at-tempting to restore these and thereby enhance ESs benefits.

A study on New York City stressed the role of UES in city planning, to better understand trade-offs and synergies and to generate best practices for managing and enhancing biodiversity and ecosystem services in the New York metropolitan region (Gómez-Baggethun et al., 2013). A second one, again on New York City, identifies patterns of distribution and access to UES important for understanding inequity issues with respect to UES benefits and for informing holistic decision-making regarding conservation priorities (Kremer et al., 2016).A recent research on the City of Toronto highlighted the importance of scale, referring specifically to data resolution (i.e., the granularity of data) and measurement scale, which relates to the number of enumeration units (or census levels). The main output of the paper is the recognition of how specific land use and land cover properties act as representatives of ecosystem processes (Emily C. Hazell, 2020).

Li et al. (2020) have implemented a multi-criteria approach integrating ecological and cultural services evaluation to obtain a more comprehensive assessment of the demand for UES in Beijing. Their results show that some small green spaces located in densely built-up areas have a higher demand for ESs than that of large green spaces, so that the consumption of cultural services is closely re-lated to the distribution of green space and the composition of surrounding residents (Li et al., 2020).Another interesting study focused on the provision of cultural ESs in Barcelona is also crucial in urban parks, and demonstrated that the limited amount of green space in the dense city requires a broader acknowledgement of citizens’ needs in the planning of urban green spaces and brown-fields have a high potential to provide ESs (Gómez-Baggethun et al., 2013).The presence of brownfields and abandoned areas are at the core of the paper of Cortinovis and Geneletti on the city of Trento, where the expected benefits in terms of improved cooling effect by vegetation and enhanced opportunities for nature-based recreation have been studied to address two of the most critical is-sues for citizens’ well-being in Trento (Cortinovis and Geneletti, 2018).Finally, Cerreta et al. (2020) applied a 3D virtual model to visualize UES trade-offs simultaneously, in order to identify opportunities linked to a sustainable spatial policy, and to implement a multi-scale decision-making process (Cerreta et al., 2020).

DOI: https://oaj.fupress.net/index.php/ceset/article/view/9896

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