Urban Ecosystem Services to support the design process in urban environment. A case study of the Municipality of Milan
From Firenze University Press Journal: Aestimum
Marta Dell’Ovo, Department of Architecture, Built Environment and Construction Engineering (ABC), Politecnico of Milan
Stefano Corsi, Department of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences — Production, Landscape, Agroenergy, University 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 including 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 struc-turing 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).
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