Designing metropolitan landscapes for biodiversity: deriving guidelines from metapopulation ecology

P.F.M. Opdam, E.G. Steingröver

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The decentralization of planning is giving local planning groups more power in decision making on the spatial development of metropolitan landscapes. However, because scientific knowledge is rarely used in these decision-making processes, there is a risk of discrepancies between the conservation targets and the designed ecological conditions, which makes it unlikely that the objective of sustainable development will be achieved. A plausible reason why designers, planners, and local actors fail to use ecological knowledge properly is the wide diversity of species traits, the variety of spatial scales of ecological processes, and the complexity of metapopulation ecology. There is a need for knowledge systems that simplify this complex variety so that it can be understood and handled by local planners, and designers. To be applicable in spatial planning, such a system must be based on spatially explicit relationships between species traits and ecosystem patterns. We argue that the concept of ecosystem networks is suitable for linking ecological processes to ecosystem pattern features in metropolitan landscapes and is simple enough to be used and understood by local planners. The concept is derived from metapopulation ecology, a rapidly evolving field in spatial ecology. Based on the literature and recent applications in a variety of planning and design sessions with local stakeholders, we derive ten design guidelines for ecosystem networks. These guidelines can be incorporated into a coherent design method, but will entail involving ecologists, planners, designers, and stakeholders in a learning process.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69-80
JournalLandscape Journal : Design, Planning and Management of the Land
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2008

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