Pathways towards the integration of periurban agrarian ecosystems into the spatial planning system
Introduction The potential of periurban agrarian ecosystems is recognized as one of the cornerstones for improving urban sustainability; however, this potential has been disregarded in spatial planning and decision making. The main goal of the PAEc-SP project was to assess the feasibility of integrating periurban agricultural areas into spatial planning by developing a viable ecosystem services-based methodology. Methods The research unfolded along three axes: i) mapping ecosystem services in periurban areas, distinguishing between the current state and the future potential by applying a set of indicators; ii) analyzing the regulatory framework, identifying gaps in the consideration of agrarian ecosystem services; and iii) analyzing the perceptions of these areas held by local actors. Provisioning services (food) are widely recognized by actors and plans, but this leads to weak protection. Results Cultural services (identity, recreation) are also recognized by all actors and addressed by local urban planning, though this is not connected to farming practices. Regulating services (CO2 storage, water quality) are barely addressed by spatial planning and actors do not value them either. Supporting services (biodiversity) are mostly associated with natural areas. Most technicians are reluctant to changes, while new farmers and civil society demand a new holistic approach. Conclusion The reluctant attitude to change of some actors and the inadequate understanding of ecosystem services, render it imperative to adopt a comprehensive approach through a participatory process of urban planning. Mapping ecosystem services, calculations, and graphs are a valuable communication tool both in discussing the consequences of the loss of agrarian ecosystems with different actors and in planning future scenarios.
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