URBES - Urban Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services

Start date 01/01/2012
End date The project is closed: 31/12/2015
URBES was a three-year research project that aimed to bridge the knowledge gap on the links between urbanization, ecosystem services and biodiversity. URBES ran from 2012 through to 2014. URBES built on case studies of four European cities: Berlin, Rotterdam, Salzburg and Stockholm. Some studies were also done on the cities of Barcelona, Helsinki and New York.

The sub-project led by Chalmers Architecture focused on how urban land use planning links to urban ecosystem services (ES). The concept of ES is promoted to better understand the role of urban nature for human wellbeing. Even if the ES concept is useful, the effects of changes in complex land use patterns on the supply of ES have not been researched sufficently. As a consequence, it is difficult for urban planners and policy makers to assess the impact of alternative land uses on the supply of vital ES. In situations of increasing competition for urban land, it is essential to improve our understanding of the benefits of urban nature and how to balance such benefits against other development needs and pressures. The overall research question of the project was: How can critical knowledge concerning urban ecosystem services be brought into the core of urban planning, design and management?

The method used to address this question was to develop scenarios linking land use to supply of urban ES, and bring these scenarios to urban professionals for discussion and assessment. The focus was on scenarios for Stockholm, but the project also provided input to similar scenarios for Berlin and Rotterdam. Research was initiated through interviews and a kick-off workshop with around 20 urban professionals from NGOs; public planning on municipal, regional and county levels; and experts, consultants and developers from the private sector.

The subsequent scenario development included a series of activities:
1.    Narratives and visualizations were developed, reflecting two possible futures in Stockholm year 2050.
2.    Two versions of future land use were modelled by use of GIS software, based on zoning rules developed from the narratives.
3.    To get a more differentiated and detailed account of urban land use, different types of Service Providing Elements (SPE) were added to the land use maps, such as green roofs, horticulture or ponds..
4.    Proxies for supply of ES from different types of land use were defined, taking synergies and trade-offs between different ES into account.
5.    Maps, charts and tables were produced to show the potential future supply of different urban ES for neighbourhoods, city and region, and for the two scenarios.
6.    Future demand of urban ES was estimated, based on the scenario narratives and existing policies, targets and visions.
7.    Future supply and demand of urban ES was compared to understand how different scenarios respond to current ambitions for sustainable cities.

The material was then brought to a series of stakeholder workshops in Stockholm for discussion and assessment. Urban professionals discussed the implications of the two scenarios and developed tentative strategies to better support future supply of urban ES.

The project delivered three types of results refering to a) quantified future supply and demand of urban ES in different scenario contexts; b) methodological challenges linked to land use scenarios for urban ES supply and demand; and c) usefulness and credibility of land use scenarios for urban ES supply and demand.
Jaan-Henrik Kain, project leader (Chalmers Architecture)
Anna Kaczorowska, (Chalmers Architecture)
David Rodríguez Rodríguez, (Chalmers Architecture)

+ colleagues at Humboldt University Berlin, Drift Institute at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, and Stockholm Resilience Center, funded from other sources through BiodivERsA.

The whole research consortium consisted of eleven world-leading research institutes on social-ecological studies of urban areas, based in Europe and one in USA (New York). Helsinki University and The New School (New York) participated as self-funded partners.

http://www.urbesproject.org

Funded by BiodivERsA, in Sweden by Formas
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Published: Fri 10 Jun 2016.