University of Helsinki, Helsinki 2006
Use of ecological information in urban planning
Doctoral dissertation, December 2006.
Urbanization leads to irreversible land-use change, which has ecological consequences such as the loss and fragmentation of green areas, and structural and functional changes in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. These consequences diminish ecosystem services important for human populations living in urban areas. All this results in a conflict situation: how to simultaneously meet the needs of city growth and the principles of sustainable development, and especially conserve important green areas within and around built-up areas? Urban planners and decisionmakers have an important role in this, since they must use the ecological information mainly from species and biotope inventories and biodiversity impact assessments in determining the conservation values of green areas.
The main aim of this thesis was to study the use of ecological information in the urban land-use planning and decisionmaking process in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area, Finland. At first, the literature on ecological-social systems linkages related to urban planning was reviewed. Based on the review, a theoretical and conceptual framework for the research on Finnish urban setting was adapted. Secondly, factors determining the importance and effectiveness of incorporation of ecological information into the urban planning process, and the challenges related to the use of ecological information were studied. Thirdly, the importance and use of Local Ecological Knowledge in urban planning were investigated. Then, factors determining the consideration of urban green areas and related ecological information in political land-use decisionmaking were studied. Finally, in a case study illustrating the above considerations, the importance of urban stream ecosystems in the land-use planning was investigated.
This thesis demonstrated that although there are several challenges in using ecological information effectively, it is considered as an increasingly important part of the basic information used in urban planning and decisionmaking process. The basic determinants for this are the recent changes in environmental legislation, but also the increasing appreciation of green areas and their conservation values by all the stakeholders. In addition, Local Ecological Knowledge in its several forms can be a source of ecological information for planners if incorporated effectively into the process. This study also showed that rare or endangered species and biotopes, and related ecological information receive priority in the urban planning process and usually pass through the decisionmaking system. Furthermore, the stream Rekolanoja case indicates that planners and residents see the value of urban stream ecosystem as increasingly important for the local health and social values, such as recreation and stress relief.
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© University of Helsinki 2006
Last updated 16.10.2006