Demonstrating the importance of intangible ecosystem services from pen-urban landscapes

Among ecosystem services, the various categories of intangible services linked to human perception, such as aesthetics, recreational values and cultural heritage, must be rated alongside tangible services linked to physical processes, such as wildlife habitats, clean water and air, and filter- and buffer effects. This is a pre-requisite for a sustainable development with a balance between ecological, social and economic values. We analyse ecosystem services in areas of the urban fringe of Copenhagen, where the services provided are mainly related to human perception. We employ relatively simple methods in selected landscapes to qualify or quantify the aesthetics and recreational value, and the scale of the welfare economic value of these ecosystem services. In the first case area, the Danish state acquired 50 villas covering more than 50 ha in order to recreate open vistas and gain access for the public to the seaside. In the second case area, pen-urban open landscapes were protected by conservation orders, to maintain and enhance the benefits of green space for the growing urban population. We assess the value - in a broad sense - of these ecosystem services using three practical methods: a landscape evaluation in terms of services and qualities, an assessment of actual recreational use, and finally an assessment of the costs - in terms of residential development values lost - of securing the provision of aesthetic qualities and recreational opportunities. Searching the original planning documents we uncovered the original motivation for the land evaluation and decision. The arguments behind the designation and protection of the areas were primarily aesthetic and potentials for recreational use. The two areas receive annually 2-2.5 million and 400.000 visits respectively, proving their strong recreational value. The value of the demolished houses in the first case area exceeds 115 million (sic), and the value of the lost development opportunities in the second case area exceeds 280 million (sic). By combination the three methods, we substantiated that the intangible services may dominate the tangible in cases like these, stressing the need for planners to assess the role and value hereof. (C) 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.