Spatial planning and biodiversity

Spatial planning that supports biodiversity


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Ecosystems offer people a variety of services, such as food, clean air, water, and a pleasant and healthy environment. The extent of the provision of ecosystem services varies from place to place. Concentration areas, or so-called hotspots, have a high potential for the provision of ecosystem services and/or are sensitive to disturbances, and these areas may require separate measures for their preservation or recovery. This can be done through purposeful spatial planning, which includes the needs of both man and the rest of biodiversity – for example, the movement paths between habitats and feeding places.


The understanding of ecosystem-based spatial planning may date back to the eighteenth century. Stephen Hales, an English clergyman, discovered, among other things, that forests ensure rainfall [1]. His research inspired Soame Jenyns, a member of the parliament, who in 1776 was able to convince other representatives of the necessity of forests [2]. A rainforest reserve was established on the island of Tobago to attract rain to the neighbouring fertile lands [3]. The island outside the protected area was divided among settlers.


The main promoter of the concept of biological diversity in 1980 and later leader of biodiversity conservation was Thomas Lovejoy [4], who chaired the first International Conference on Research in Conservation Biology in 1978. By 1992, most countries in the world were involved in biodiversity protection by acceding to the Convention on Biological Diversity and launching biodiversity action plans.


In order to take biodiversity into account in spatial planning, an environmental impact assessment is now carried out in parallel with the planning process. The aim is to ensure that infrastructure development or other activities are carried out in the most environmentally friendly way possible and that the infrastructure created does not have a detrimental effect on the environment. To protect biodiversity, a green network connecting natural areas and areas with natural value is planned in Estonia. It combines biodiversity hotspots, i.e. support areas, into green corridors, which form a network of habitats and pathways. The task of the green network is to ensure a balance between the man-made environment and nature.


If biodiversity is not taken into account in spatial planning, species impoverishment can have serious consequences for the functioning of ecosystems and the sustainability of human society.


See also: Urban nature.



                                                                                                                                          Text: Kristjan Piirimäe

                                                                                                                                           Editors: Sigrid Ots, Reigo Roasto



Last modified: 13.01.2022




[1] S. Hales. Vegetable statics: Or, An Account of some Statica! Experiments on the SAP in vegetables: Being an essay towards a Natural History of Vegetation. London: W. & J. Unnys & T. Woodward, 1727.

[2] S. Jenyns. The works of Soame Jenyns. Volume 1. London, 1790.

[3] C. Rooks, G. Barclay. Natural history of Trinidad and Tobago. B.R. Reid (toim) Caribbean Heritage, 2012.

[4] T. Lovejoy. Biological diversity. H. Newbold (toim), Life stories, 2000.