Priority areas in municipality planning: ecosystemservices, environmental impact assessments and research areas

Thomas R. Palo, Karen Lagercrantz, Torleif Bramryd, Michael Johansson, Thomas Beery, K. Ingemar Jönsson, Christine Wamsler, Ebba Brink, Per Schubert, Nils Ekelund

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
12 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Several pressing issues face municipal planners including increased land use and climate change. Managing these issues requires a balance between different actions to accommodate citizen’s demands of ecosystem services (ES) and development projects. The implementation of ES as a new tool for assessments needs to be contrasted by research considering existing tools such as Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). ES has been introduced as a policy tool at the governmental level but implementation at the local and regional scale is still needed; municipalities could benefit from collaboration with the research community for state of the art methods. One obstacle for implementation of ES is that it is not always easy for laymen to understand and additionally, the ES concept may be weakly supported by science. The municipalities realize that a society on its way towards sustainability takes advantage of new knowledge and that interactions with research will put them in the forefront of new scientific questions. The municipalities ask for research that takes a citizen perspective and research that prioritizes questions other than pure environmental considerations. Priorities in municipality planning are based on local conditions and rely on EIA. Many ecological indicators are already covered in EIA and this is reflected in Swedish Comprehensive Plans (SCP) documents, yet need further analysis is needed to be a part of ES. The SCPs present concepts at a policy level and rarely provide a more detailed plan of action compatible with the ES approach.

New information: We found that the use of ES concepts in Swedish Comprehensive Plans and in EIA is still not common and in need of further support from research and in practice. The EIA is decisive for comprehensive planning documents in the Swedish municipalities and follows standard format over time and between municipalities. ES is focused on human needs while the EIA describes place based assessments on environmental impact rather than feedback to the society by the intervention. Municipalities of south Sweden ask for research support in many different areas, for instance how to set up proper organization for implementation of ES and environmental issues, but priorities are based on their local conditions. The results shows that collaboration between stakeholders and researchers is needed which can create incentives, so that the decisions made by individuals, communities, corporations, and governments may be able to promote widely shared values compatible with ES. Researchers and municipalities who work on an operational level face many challenges in promoting greater use of the ES approach, with some of them yet to be defined. We conclude that implementation of ES could draw from lessons learned in the use of EIA. Further, it is presented that ES has the potential for greater public and stakeholder feedback into decisions as compared to EIA.

Original languageEnglish
JournalOne Ecosystem
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Swedish Standard Keywords

  • Social Sciences Interdisciplinary (50901)


  • Ecosystem services
  • environmental impact assessment
  • municipalities
  • strategic planning


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