Bridging the gap between ecosystem service assessments and land-use planning through Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis (MCDA)

Johannes Langemeyer*, Erik Gómez-Baggethun, Dagmar Haase, Sebastian Scheuer, Thomas Elmqvist

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

170 Citations (Scopus)


© 2016 Elsevier Ltd Land-use planning is an important determinant for green space policy in cities. It defines land covers and hence the structure and function of urban ecosystems and the benefits these provide to humans, such as air purification, urban cooling, runoff mitigation, and recreation. The ecosystem service approach has helped to attract policy attention to these benefits but the concept remains poorly implemented in urban policy and governance. To address this gap, we advance a framework to bridge ecosystem services into policy processes through Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis (MCDA) as decision support tool. The paper is organized in three main parts. First, we conduct a systematic literature review to assess state-of-the-art knowledge on ecosystem service assessments through MCDA. Next, we build on insights from the literature review to develop the ‘ecosystem services policy-cycle’, a conceptual framework that merges the ‘ecosystem service cascade’ and ‘policy cycle’ models to reinforce the link between ecosystem service assessments and practical applications in urban policy and governance. Next, we illustrate the applicability of the proposed framework along an example about conflicting interests on land use and green space planning following the closure of the Airport Tempelhof in Berlin, Germany. Our results highlight the scope of MCDA as a decision support tool for integrating ecosystem service assessments in green space governance. We discuss advantages and disadvantages of different methodological choices in the use of MCDA in ecosystem service assessments and note that a key strength of this tool in informing green space policies lies in its capacity to accommodate conflicting stakeholder perspectives and to address trade-offs between ecological, social and economic values.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-56
JournalEnvironmental Science and Policy
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2016


  • Cities
  • Green space
  • Multi-criteria analysis
  • Policy evaluation
  • Urban governance
  • Urban planning


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