Decision-making platform : Decision-making platform for sustainable soil use

Integrating soil resources into spatial planning can effectively steer a sustainable use of soil. A 3D virtual decision support platform allows stakeholders to understand trade-offs and synergies in soil functions and ecosystem services under various policy instruments.

  • Background (completed research project)

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    Current spatial legislation is primarily concerned with the distribution of land uses and disregards the question of availability of soil resources in space and time. However, if soil is regarded as a key resource in the context of sustainable land use, then spatial planning and land management decisions have to be taken after consideration of the functioning of soil and the related ecosystem services potentially supported by the soil. Furthermore, as decision-making on land use changes is a shared domain of multiple groups of actors at regional and local level, sustainable soil use needs to be deliberated among heterogeneous stakeholders with different demands – a process which requires profound knowledge of the issues at stake.

  • Aim

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    The main goal of the project was to develop a virtual decision support system for promoting sustainable spatial development. To reach this goal, a land use decision model coupling an agent-based economic land allocation model to an urban expansion model was developed and linked to both soil function maps and soil-related ecosystem services maps. Integrated in a virtual decision support platform, the model enables researchers to simulate the effects of various policy instruments on settlement development and agricultural income, taking into account soil functions and ecosystem services.

  • Results

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    The results demonstrate the importance of cooperation among municipalities and consideration of ecosystem services in spatial planning for securing soil resources. Ubiquitously available low quality ecosystem services can be traded-off for the preservation of more scarce high quality ones when allocating new settlement areas. However, while most farmers will profit from a consideration of ecosystem services in spatial planning, those who mainly do extensive farming and whose income is heavily dependent on subsidies will loose money as the level of cooperation among municipalities increases.

  • Implications for research

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    The resulting modeling can provide a basis for developing soil indicators to steer sustainable spatial planning.

  • Implications for practice

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    The virtual decision support tool is particularly useful for redistributing settlement zones and the designation of new settlement zones under the revised Spatial Development Act. Thanks to the integration of 3D visualisations, visual changes in the landscapes and cultural ecosystem services can be taken into account when soil ressources are assessed.

  • Original title

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    Matching soil functions and soil uses in space and time for sustainable spatial development and land management – operationalizing cross-scale interactions in a virtual collaborative decision support system