Incorporating soil ecosystem services into urban planning: status, challenges and opportunities

Ricardo Teixeira da Silva*, Luuk Fleskens, Hedwig van Delden, Martine van der Ploeg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Context: Traditionally soils have not received much attention in urban planning. For this, tools are needed that can both be understood both by soil scientists and urban planners. Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to enhance the role of soil knowledge in urban planning practice, through the following objectives: (1) identifying the role soil plays in recent urban plans; (2) analysing the ecosystem services and indicators used in soil science in an urban context; and (3) inferring the main challenges and opportunities to integrate soil into urban planning. Methods: Seven urban plans and reports of world cities that include sustainability goals were analysed using text-mining and qualitative analysis, with a critical view on the inclusion of soil-related concepts. Secondly, the contribution of soil science to urban planning was assessed with an overview of case studies in the past decade that focus on soil-related ecosystem services in urban context. Results: The results show an overall weak attention to soil and soil-related ecosystem services in the implementation and monitoring phases of urban plans. The majority of soil science case studies uses a haphazard approach to measure ecosystem service indicators which may not capture the ecosystem services appropriately and hence lack relevance for urban planning. Conclusions: Even though the most urban plans assessed recognize soil as a key resource, most of them fail to integrate indicators to measure or monitor soil-related functions. There is a need to develop soil-related ecosystem services that can be easily integrated and understood by other fields.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1087-1102
JournalLandscape Ecology
Issue number7
Early online date31 May 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2018


  • Ecosystem services
  • Integrated planning
  • Soil
  • Sustainable development
  • Urban planning

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