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Ecosystem services in planning practice for urban and technologically advanced landscapes

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Title: Ecosystem services in planning practice for urban and technologically advanced landscapes
Author(s): Honey-Roses, Jordi
Director of Research: Schneider, Daniel W.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s): Schneider, Daniel W.
Doctoral Committee Member(s): Brozovic, Nicholas; Feser, Edward; Arrojo, Pedro
Department / Program: Urban & Regional Planning
Discipline: Regional Planning
Degree Granting Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree: Ph.D.
Genre: Dissertation
Subject(s): Urban Ecosystem Services Natural Capital Technology Substitution Water Treatment Desalination Cardener River history of ecosystem services Llobregat River salinity pollution watershed planning Ecosystem services stream temperature Are land use planning and gasoline price increase mutually supportive (SNTEMP) riparian restoration drinking water treatment
Abstract: Research on ecosystem services strives to build stronger linkages between ecological and economic systems in order to improve ecosystem management and human well-being. By clarifying how human populations benefit from ecosystems we may protect valuable ecosystem functions and improve human welfare more strategically. To advance the field of ecosystem services my dissertation asks three questions: (1) How can historical research inform why ecosystem based management approaches have been integrated or ignored into watershed management? (2) What is the relationship between technological innovation and the value of ecosystem services? (3) Can the restoration of ecosystem structures and functions influencing stream temperature provide valuable ecosystem services for water treatment managers? I focus on ecosystem services in the Llobregat watershed near Barcelona, Spain, where over 3 million residents rely on the Llobregat River for basic water needs. The withdrawal of drinking water from the Llobregat River has created clear linkages between local well-being and the river’s aquatic ecosystem. Two water treatment facilities withdraw water from the Llobregat, and both have recently installed desalination technology. However the new treatment systems are expensive to operate. In this urban and technologically advanced context, I explore how ecosystem services may be managed to meet environmental and economic goals. Chapter 1 reviews the literature on ecosystem services, describes the study area, and begins to outline my argument developed in the dissertation. The number of articles published on the topic of ecosystem services has exploded in the last decade, and in this chapter I describe how my research contributes to this discussion. One major argument pertains to the sequence in which the field usually studies the linkages between ecological and economic systems. Most research begins with the biophysical; and later draws on the social sciences to attach monetary values to ecosystem structures or functions. Instead, I propose that we study the economic system first, including its decision-making and technological context, and then allow our ecological research to follow from that insight. Chapter 2 consists of an environmental history that examines the individuals and institutions that have controlled the flow of water in the Llobregat River, and by extension, dictated water management practices. The study of ecosystem services is often presented as a new and innovative framework for addressing environmental problems. Through archival research and personal interviews, I examine how historic resource users have integrated or ignored this framework for decision making in the Llobregat watershed. I find that throughout the twentieth century, most river managers did not adopt an ecosystem services approach, but rather favored hardscaped and structural solutions. At the same time I find that proposals to manage ecosystem services related to flood control were proposed as far back as 1890, and these ideas were implemented in the 1930s. Notions of ecosystem services have more than a century of history in the watershed, and yet they have not played a central role in river and water management. Structural approaches have dominated decision making and continue to play a dominant role, as most recently demonstrated by the installation of desalination treatment plants. The recommendations from the Commission for the Study of Salinity of the Llobregat River (CESALL) in 1932 outlined structural solutions for addressing the Llobregat River’s water pollution and supply problems, and these recommendations had a lasting impact for the remainder of the twentieth century. I argue that our current system of water treatment and distribution reflects a historical tradition that has favored technological fixes when addressing water management problems. Chapter 3 examines the value of urban ecosystem services when sophisticated technology mediates our relationship with ecosystem processes. Most research on ecosystem services is being conducted in natural or pristine areas, while less attention has been directed at urban ecosystem services and their relationship with technological change. Understanding the relationship between technological change and the value of ecosystem services is relevant because it may broaden the circumstances in which ideas about ecosystem services may be implemented in practice. I argue that the expected tradeoff between natural and manufactured capital is false. Rather, the adoption of new technologies is complementary to ecosystem management. This point is illustrated with a case study that analyzes how the installation of sophisticated drinking water treatment technology increased the value of ecosystem services in Barcelona, Spain. The implication is that the supply of ecosystem services is not fixed; and technological change will reshape which ecosystem services are valuable but not obviate the need for them entirely. Finally, in Chapter 4 I use a biophysical stream temperature model to assess how increases in riparian vegetation and stream discharge may reduce stream temperatures and treatment costs downstream. This chapter serves as an example of the type of research that I am proposing for the field. The type of ecological modeling I chose emerged from an analysis of the technological and decision-making context of ecosystem users. By modeling different ecological scenarios, I find that existing forests along the Llobregat River save water treatment managers €79,000 per year, while the restoration of additional riparian forests could generate economic savings in the range of €57,000- €156,000 per year. Stream restoration at higher elevations would yield greater benefits than restoration in the lower reaches. Moderate increases in stream discharge (25%) could generate savings of €40,000 per year. This research underscores that ideas about ecosystem services have the potential to be more widely adopted if research focuses on the demand for these services rather than the supply.
Issue Date: 2012-09-18
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2142/34381
Rights Information: Copyright 2012 Jordi Honey-Roses
Date Available in IDEALS: 2012-09-18
Date Deposited: 2012-08
 

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