News

New article on the historical dynamics of ecosystem services

© 2019 EPFL

© 2019 EPFL

Reasearchers at the Urban and Regional Planning community at EPFL built an approach to quantify the historical dynamics of ecosystem services between Swiss cantons. 

Ecosystem services (ES) are the benefits from the environment contributing to human wellbeing. These include food production, carbon sequestration or flood regulation. The concept offers an alternative to spatial planning as it allows to quantify different benefits and tradeoffs between services useful to our society and economy. However, the interactions between ES vary both in time and space. It is particularly interesting for spatial planning in a federal state, where planning policies can be adjusted from one region to another, to quantify these changes. Researchers at CEAT succeeded to quantify them at the cantonal scale from 1985, when planning policies such as the Federal Act on Spatial Planning began to take effect. 

Rémi Jaligot, a PhD candidate at CEAT and main author of the study details: “Quantifying ES, which are usually complex to model, is even more challenging in the past where data may be scarce. We managed, despite some shortcomings, to model changes in ES interaction between cantons. We also established which drivers had the largest impact on those changes. We found that canton with moderate population density, promoting organic farming, provided a high amount of ES. Alpine cantons were the one providing most ES from a cultural perspective. One interesting result was that hyper dense cantons, such as Geneva, had the lowest provision of ES. We could think that if other cantons reached the same density level, following current planning policies, their level of ES provision would decrease as well.”. 

Conclusions of this study can be found in the full article published in the peer-reviewed journal Ecological Indicators