Ecosystem services in spatial planning and strategic environmental assessment-A European and Portuguese profile

André Mascarenhas, Tomás B. Ramos, Dagmar Haase, Rui Santos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Citations (Scopus)


Despite the growing interest on ecosystem services (ES) in research, significant knowledge gaps on ES integration in decision making subsist. Particularly, ES-focused profiles of governance frameworks for different policy areas, like spatial planning, are scarce. The goal of this research is to draw a profile on ES integration in the European policy and guidance framework for spatial planning and strategic environmental assessment (SEA). To investigate how this framework might be translated in a particular country of the EU and across different levels of governance, the Portuguese spatial planning and SEA framework is also analysed. To achieve these goals, a content analysis of policy and guidance documents was conducted. We have found a general low level of explicit ES integration, but some notions associated with ES are present in the documents, although more indirectly. Results highlight the potential role of SEA for ES integration. However, in the Portuguese context, the contribution of SEA in practice is currently limited and for the coming years ES will not be specifically targeted or integrated in regional spatial planning practice. Recent changes in the wider European governance framework contribute to potentially higher degrees of ES integration in the future. Nevertheless, bottom-up demand for improved ES integration in plans and policies will be an important driver. Our approach contributes to identify which policies, plans and guiding documents need improved ES integration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)158-169
Number of pages12
JournalLand Use Policy
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2015


  • Ecosystem services
  • Governance
  • Policy integration
  • Spatial planning
  • Strategic environmental assessment


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