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An integrated multi-criteria scenario evaluation web tool for participatory land-use planning in urbanized areas: The Ecosystem Portfolio Model

January 28, 2013

Land-use land-cover change is one of the most important and direct drivers of changes in ecosystem functions and services. Given the complexity of the decision-making, there is a need for Internet-based decision support systems with scenario evaluation capabilities to help planners, resource managers and communities visualize, compare and consider trade-offs among the many values at stake in land use planning. This article presents details on an Ecosystem Portfolio Model (EPM) prototype that integrates ecological, socio-economic information and associated values of relevance to decision-makers and stakeholders. The EPM uses a multi-criteria scenario evaluation framework, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) analysis and spatially-explicit land-use/land-cover change-sensitive models to characterize changes in important land-cover related ecosystem values related to ecosystem services and functions, land parcel prices, and community quality-of-life (QoL) metrics. Parameters in the underlying models can be modified through the interface, allowing users in a facilitated group setting to explore simultaneously issues of scientific uncertainty and divergence in the preferences of stakeholders. One application of the South Florida EPM prototype reported in this article shows the modeled changes (which are significant) in aggregate ecological value, landscape patterns and fragmentation, biodiversity potential and ecological restoration potential for current land uses compared to the 2050 land-use scenario. Ongoing refinements to EPM, and future work especially in regard to modifiable sea level rise scenarios are also discussed.