Special Issue "Ecosystem Services, Green Infrastructure and Spatial Planning"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Sustainability of Culture and Heritage".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 December 2019).

Special Issue Editor

Prof. Dr. Corrado Zoppi
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Dipartimento di Ingegneria Civile, Ambientale e Architettura, University of Cagliari, Italy
Interests: strategic, regional, spatial and urban planning; strategic environmental assessment; ecosystem services assessment and planning; green infrastructure; management plans of protected areas

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

As regards the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, ratified by Italy by Law no. 1994/124, an ecosystem is “a dynamic complex of plant, animal and micro-organism communities and their nonliving environment interacting as a functional unit”. Ecosystem goods and services, univocally defined as “ecosystem services”, represent the benefits human populations derive, directly or indirectly, from ecosystem functions (Costanza et al., 1997).

When trying to assess the ecosystem services of natural resources, the usual vision is always based on qualitative approaches. We all know how important the environmental services are and that they are worth protecting and restoring. But it is really difficult to compare the costs, which can be easily revealed in monetary terms, to the benefits, which are always in the abstract world of ideas. Actually, it is impossible to compare apples to oranges. It would be of huge utility for planning and managing to have tools that bridge this gap.

It has to be emphasized that the Strategic environmental assessment (SEA) of Management plans (MPs) for Natura 2000 sites has to be regarded as an assessment exercise concerning not merely a single node of the ecological network (that is, a single Natura 2000 site), but rather the network as a whole.

SEA is intrinsically connected to sustainability because it establishes environmental protection-related objectives, and therefore it acts as a sustainability-oriented plan which becomes part of the planning process itself. This is of particular importance with reference to the definition of conservation measures, including the preparation of MPs, as SEA can help integrate sustainability within MPs objectives and can be regarded as a real and effective learning path for administrations in charge of Natura 2000 sites. Within SEA, a fundamental issue is the assessment of the restoration of ecosystem services.

In the Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions, a working definition of Green Infrastructure (GI) (COM (2013) 249 final), the Commission puts in evidence how and how much the issue of GI relates to the Network of SCIs and SPAs: “The work done over the last 25 years to establish and consolidate the network means that the backbone of the EU’s GI is already in place. It is a reservoir of biodiversity that can be drawn upon to repopulate and revitalize degraded environments and catalyze the development of GI. This will also help reduce the fragmentation of the ecosystem, improving the connectivity between sites in the Natura 2000 network and thus achieving the objectives of Article 10 of the Habitats Directive”.

Hence, it is evident that the definition of GI is strictly connected to the category of ecosystem services. Moreover, it has to be a planned network. Spatial planning, at the regional and urban levels, is an important and effective perspective to address the complex issue of defining, implementing and managing networks of ecosystem services and GI.

As a consequence, GI has a decisive role in promoting restoration of biodiversity and in reducing the fragmentation of ecosystems, and, eventually, in their capability of delivery ecosystem services. So, a general goal of SEA of MPs of Sites of Natura 2000 Network can be defined in order to address the issue of the role of GI in promoting and enhancing habitats restoration and delivery of ecosystem services.

This Special Issue focuses on ecosystem services and green infrastructure as important points of reference for spatial planning, related to urban and rural contexts, with particular reference to the definition and implementation of planning policies aimed at protecting nature and natural resources.

Theoretical and methodological contributions as well as critical discussion on policy implementation are welcome, with reference to the following issues:

  • use of ecosystem services as points of reference for the definition and implementation of spatial planning policies;
  • definition and implementation of green infrastructure;
  • ecological networks: sites and corridors;
  • landscape connectivity and fragmentation;
  • strategic environmental assessment as an important framework for the definition and implementation of spatial policies related to protection of nature and natural resources;
  • integration of nature-based solutions into spatial planning policies;
  • Natura 2000 Network: conservation measures and management plans.

Prof. Dr. Corrado Zoppi
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

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Keywords

  • Conservation measures
  • Ecological corridors
  • Ecosystem services
  • Green infrastructure
  • Landscape connectivity
  • Landscape fragmentation
  • Natura 2000 Network
  • Nature-based solutions
  • Protected areas’ spatial planning
  • Strategic environmental assessment

Published Papers (8 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle
Knowledge Models for Spatial Planning: Ecosystem Services Awareness in the New Plan of Bari (Italy)
Sustainability 2020, 12(4), 1516; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12041516 (registering DOI) - 18 Feb 2020
Abstract
The concept of ecosystem services (ES) arises as a formal outcome of historical processes of understanding and interpreting settlements as complex ecological systems. Because of a straightforward, bottom-up demand for environment enhancement, this concept increasingly occurs in discourses, in narratives, in the demands [...] Read more.
The concept of ecosystem services (ES) arises as a formal outcome of historical processes of understanding and interpreting settlements as complex ecological systems. Because of a straightforward, bottom-up demand for environment enhancement, this concept increasingly occurs in discourses, in narratives, in the demands of common people, triggering a new urban environmental awareness. This is now often arising spontaneously in the protocols of participatory plan processes, especially when planning for the future of complex environments such as city areas. The present study tries to elicit reflections around the significance of ES issues awareness in the case study of Bari (Italy), which is experiencing an inclusive and participatory process of construction of shared knowledge for the new master plan. Starting from an initial campaign of civic walks (CWs) along the urban neighborhoods and a subsequent semi-structured interview to the community, the paper carries out comparative analyses using problem-structuring methods (PMs), in order to evaluate and reflect on community behaviors and expectations about ES. Then the paper ends by emphasizing the role of structured knowledge-raising approaches, as critical activities to enhance ecosystem awareness in planning settlements as complex ecological systems. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Ecosystem Services, Green Infrastructure and Spatial Planning)
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Open AccessArticle
Territorial Energy Decentralisation and Ecosystem Services in Italy: Limits and Potential
Sustainability 2020, 12(4), 1424; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12041424 (registering DOI) - 14 Feb 2020
Abstract
This article focuses on the complex relationships between energy processes and ecosystem services. It highlights the conflicts between them due to the anthropocentric value that characterizes their interrelationship. The article reports the initial results of ongoing research on energy decentralization processes in Italy, [...] Read more.
This article focuses on the complex relationships between energy processes and ecosystem services. It highlights the conflicts between them due to the anthropocentric value that characterizes their interrelationship. The article reports the initial results of ongoing research on energy decentralization processes in Italy, examining the Italian districts heating performance, concerning ecosystem provisioning and regulating services. The analysis is based on a sample of more than 150 Italian district-heating systems. Contrary to studies that positively evaluate processes of energy decentralization, the results of the research show some critical factors and impacts. An efficiency gap between districts heating and traditional energy systems emerged. The data processed show a critical situation in the development of local networks, highlighting that the decentralized energy model is not deeply rooted in the local area and is poorly characterized by shared governance, which instead would benefit from the integration of ecosystem services. The significant presence of large energy groups and the considerable use of fossil sources in Italy reduces the effectiveness of the decentralization of energy systems. The article presents some conclusive considerations, which outline some general guidelines for proceeding towards a more correct relationship with ecosystem services and greater integration with the territories. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Ecosystem Services, Green Infrastructure and Spatial Planning)
Open AccessArticle
The Contribution of Ecosystem Services in Developing Effective and Sustainable Management Practices in Marine Protected Areas. The Case Study of “Isola dell’Asinara”
Sustainability 2020, 12(3), 1108; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12031108 - 04 Feb 2020
Abstract
Ecosystem Services (ESs) are assuming a constantly increasing importance in management practices due to their key role in ensuring a sustainable future to fauna and flora on Earth. In addition, ES degradation and quality loss jeopardize current human activities. For this reason, it [...] Read more.
Ecosystem Services (ESs) are assuming a constantly increasing importance in management practices due to their key role in ensuring a sustainable future to fauna and flora on Earth. In addition, ES degradation and quality loss jeopardize current human activities. For this reason, it is essential to develop methodologies and practices able to efficiently assess environmental and socio-economic impacts in terms of ES deterioration, especially within protected areas. Norms and regulations have to be able to identify habitat and species categories to be preserved, and to determine the cost of their destruction and decline, according to a holistic vision, which includes social and economic impacts, besides the environmental ones. The paper illustrates the case study of the “Isola dell’Asinara” Marine Protected Area (MPA) in Sardinia, where an experimental methodology was developed with the aim to draw new regulations that integrate conservation measures of Natura 2000 sites included in its territory, provisions determined by the integrated coastal zone management (ICZM) protocol and the Standardized Actions for Effective Management of MPAs (ISEA) project. Subsequently, in order to assess the status of ESs and impacts on ESs located within the MPA territory, an ecosystem-based approach was implemented and applied to the actions defined for the new regulation proposal. Results show that regulations are in this way valuably enriched by environmental aspects of the MPA that would otherwise be overlooked. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Ecosystem Services, Green Infrastructure and Spatial Planning)
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Open AccessArticle
Military Training Areas as Semicommons: The Territorial Valorization of Quirra (Sardinia) from Easements to Ecosystem Services
Sustainability 2020, 12(2), 622; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12020622 - 15 Jan 2020
Abstract
The paper addresses the issue of the concurrent use of coastal areas for military training and civil activities, namely tourism. In the paper, starting from the consideration of publicly owned assets as ‘semi-commons’, we propose a method based on the comparison of planning [...] Read more.
The paper addresses the issue of the concurrent use of coastal areas for military training and civil activities, namely tourism. In the paper, starting from the consideration of publicly owned assets as ‘semi-commons’, we propose a method based on the comparison of planning instruments related to the different uses, and try to model them in a grid, where different weights and degrees of evaluation can be considered, in order to promote, rather than blocking, possible activities, compatible with concurrent use. The military areas in Sardinia (region and island, Italy) are around 234 km2, which constitutes 60% of the national surface affected by military easements. This situation is due to its geographic position, considered centrality in the Mediterranean for strategic reasons. This contribution evaluates the performance of the Local Coastline Plan (LCP) and the Site management plan of Community Interest (SCI) in conditions of military constraint. The case study is the municipality of Villaputzu South Sardinia, Italy), where an important coastal military easement and the use of the coast for recreational tourism purposes coexist together through specific planning, a consequence of institutional agreements between the Municipal Administration of Villaputzu and the Ministry of Defense. The idea is considering the concurrent possible land uses guaranteed by the different planning instruments, instead of focusing, as it is generally the rule, on the sum of constraints provided by the laws. The local coastline plan has been identified as the ideal planning tool, which addresses the co-existence of apparently opposite land uses and interests, as those expressed by the local municipal planning and those expressed by the military. An evaluation of the congruence of the specific objectives of the LCP and SCI shows how their combined action favors the environmental enhancement of Sardinia, contributing to the formation of ecosystem services, even in particular conditions arising from military easements. These are sites that evolve from ‘anticommons’ to ‘semicommons’. In fact, the military release process in Sardinia, together with the promiscuous military and civil use, activates unique governance policies of their kind that find a significant field of application in Sardinia to guarantee sustainable renewal of economic development of the ‘semi-commons’ awaiting to become ‘commons’. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Ecosystem Services, Green Infrastructure and Spatial Planning)
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Open AccessArticle
From Degradation to the Regeneration of Territorial Heritage. An Eco-Systemic Vision for the Promotion of the Natural, Urban and Landscape Capital of the Metropolitan City of Reggio Calabria
Sustainability 2019, 11(23), 6768; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11236768 - 28 Nov 2019
Abstract
The results of the research conducted on the subject of regeneration of areas of land suffering degradation were presented, studied and analyzed to establish “families” of causes and effects, to forecast lines of action commensurate with the reversibility of the damage. The area [...] Read more.
The results of the research conducted on the subject of regeneration of areas of land suffering degradation were presented, studied and analyzed to establish “families” of causes and effects, to forecast lines of action commensurate with the reversibility of the damage. The area in question is the Metropolitan City of Reggio Calabria covering the entire territory of the former province and including the Aspromonte National Park. The methods of direct observation and critical interpretation of the phenomena, in terms of extension and incidence, are aimed at advancing a protocol of interventions for the definition, evaluation and implementation of regeneration prospects through experimental pilot laboratories for University-Region coordination. Of particular interest was the role of prevention for areas that are used improperly with the consequent loss of habitat quality, limitations of the effectiveness of ecosystem services, for those environments that express values integrated from a cultural, naturalistic point of view, identity and are subject to risks of fragmentation that endanger ecological connectivity. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Ecosystem Services, Green Infrastructure and Spatial Planning)
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Open AccessArticle
Local Development and Protection of Nature in Coastal Zones: A Planning Study for the Sulcis Area (Sardinia, Italy)
Sustainability 2019, 11(18), 5095; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11185095 - 18 Sep 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
In 2008, the Council of the European Union adopted the “Protocol on Integrated Coastal Zone Management” (ICZM Protocol), then ratified by Decision No. 2010/631/EU. The ICZM Protocol defines integrated coastal zone management as a dynamic and flexible process that accounts for the relations [...] Read more.
In 2008, the Council of the European Union adopted the “Protocol on Integrated Coastal Zone Management” (ICZM Protocol), then ratified by Decision No. 2010/631/EU. The ICZM Protocol defines integrated coastal zone management as a dynamic and flexible process that accounts for the relations between coastal ecosystems and landscape as well as the activities and the uses that characterize coastal areas. Integrated management of coastal zones is still a critical process in terms of translating theory into practice. In this theoretical framework, strategic environmental assessment (SEA) helps to improve decision-making processes related to coastal spatial planning by integrating development goals and sustainability criteria. This study proposes a methodological approach concerning ICZM-based decision-making processes at the local level. The methodology is implemented in relation to three case studies concerning three towns located in southwest Sardinia. The results show a general consistency between the analyzed plans in terms of objectives and themes. Three specific issues are particularly relevant in terms of integration of economic and social objectives and sustainability goals, that is, relations between beach services and coastal ecosystems, protection of coastal ecosystems, and accessibility to the coastal zones. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Ecosystem Services, Green Infrastructure and Spatial Planning)
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Open AccessArticle
Smart City Governance and Children’s Agency: An Assessment of the Green Infrastructure Impact on Children’s Activities in Cagliari (Italy) with the Tool “Opportunities for Children in Urban Spaces (OCUS)”
Sustainability 2019, 11(18), 4848; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11184848 - 05 Sep 2019
Abstract
The increases in urbanization, pollution, resource depletion, and climate change underline the need for urban planning policies that incorporate blue–green infrastructure (BGI) and ecosystem services. This paper proposes a framework for assessing BGI’s effect on children’s outdoor activities. This effect, called meaningful usefulness, [...] Read more.
The increases in urbanization, pollution, resource depletion, and climate change underline the need for urban planning policies that incorporate blue–green infrastructure (BGI) and ecosystem services. This paper proposes a framework for assessing BGI’s effect on children’s outdoor activities. This effect, called meaningful usefulness, is a central issue due to the influence of experiences with nature on children’s development and the global trend of concentration of children in urban areas. Based on the concept of affordance, the methodology formalizes meaningful usefulness in terms of an index of usefulness of individual settings (IUIS) and a synthetic index of usefulness of BGI in a specific area (ISGI). These are determined via an audit protocol, Opportunities for Children in Urban Spaces (OCUS), which incorporates a set of indicators measuring micro-scale properties of individual places and contextual macro-scale factors. The methodology is applied to BGI components in Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy, which was selected for its superior density of urban green spaces. The application of the OCUS tool confirms its usefulness for investigating functional affordances incorporated into the trans-scalar structures of BGIs. The analytic protocol further contributes to the implementation of urban planning strategies within the smart city paradigm. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Ecosystem Services, Green Infrastructure and Spatial Planning)
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Open AccessArticle
Assessment of Municipal Masterplans Aimed at Identifying and Fostering Green Infrastructure: A Study Concerning Three Towns of the Metropolitan Area of Cagliari, Italy
Sustainability 2019, 11(5), 1470; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11051470 - 10 Mar 2019
Abstract
Building upon a recent piece of research that maps a regional green infrastructure (RGI) in relation to four components (natural value, conservation value, landscape value, and recreational value), this study aims at identifying planning policies that can foster the enhancement of the RGI [...] Read more.
Building upon a recent piece of research that maps a regional green infrastructure (RGI) in relation to four components (natural value, conservation value, landscape value, and recreational value), this study aims at identifying planning policies that can foster the enhancement of the RGI by increasing one or more of its components at the sub-regional scale. To this end, the RGI suitability map is overlaid with the planning schemes of the municipal masterplans (MMPs) of three towns belonging to the Metropolitan City of Cagliari (Italy), and multiple linear regressions are performed. The outcomes of the study imply that the eligibility of a land parcel to be part of the RGI depends on several factors related to planning policies entailed by the zoning schemes of the MMPs, such as presence and spreading of conservation and safeguard areas within urban fabrics, improved accessibility of historic and natural landmarks, planned use of nature-based solutions within the regulating codes of MMPs, improvement of habitat quality in the spatial context of rural areas. Main limitations of the proposed methodology concern the fragile theoretical foundations concerning the assessment of the recreational value, and the need for structured integration of nature-based solutions into the proposed methodology. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Ecosystem Services, Green Infrastructure and Spatial Planning)
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