KESPlan – Cultural ecosystem services in peri-urban landscape: A valuation framework for landscape planning and policy


Situated between the rural and the urban, the peri-urban landscape is a diverse set of ecosystems that vary in their supply of ecosystem services (ES). With the growing urbanisation and consequent redevelopment of cities, peri-urban space is under increasing pressure, often because of a shortage of ES in the cities. The peri-urban landscape is therefore increasingly important for urban and suburban dwellers for the intangible benefits its ecosystems provide. Commonly described as cultural ecosystem services (CES), these are strongly linked to quality of life and, in particular, to the wellbeing of local people. However, despite a growing knowledge base and elevated awareness of the relevance of CES, in Slovenia there is as yet little practical application of this knowledge in planning and decision-making. The proposed research will seek to improve existing understanding of peri-urban landscape and its eclectic character by exploring, clarifying and quantifying CES in peri-urban open spaces of Slovenian cities. It will be focused on two CES categories, outdoor recreation and sense of place. Its practical application will be done on the case studies of three Slovenian cities: Ljubljana, Kranj and Koper.

To comprehend the complexity of CES and associated socio-cultural values in the peri-urban landscape, it is necessary to explore the relationship between people, places and values, ranging from individual behaviour to organisational governance. To address this challenge, the proposed research will develop and empirically test a survey with green space users and interviews with experts and decision-makers to evaluate CES outdoor recreation and sense of place in peri-urban green open spaces, enabling the integration of CES values in relevant spatial policies on the local and regional level in Slovenia. The project strives to incorporate information on CES values in a format that can be used by city authorities and spatial planners.

The originality of our approach lies in the combination of qualitative and quantitative methods to generate complementary insights about the spatial and social factors influencing, being influenced by and shaping CES categories outdoor recreation and sense of place in the peri-urban landscape. Focusing on landscape scale, the empirical work will use comparison of selected green spaces in case study cities to explore the specificities of different peri-urban green spaces, with particular regard to land use and stakeholder diversity. The research will include the following stages.

(1) Development of a theoretical framework based on a literature review of existing theories and principles.
(2) A comparison of peri-urban green spaces of three case study cities and application of selected qualitative and quantitative methods to collect the data.
(3) Data analysis using techniques appropriate to the selected methods and conceptual framework; triangulation of research findings and interpretation of results.

The proposed valuation framework will provide methods and tools for assessing CES outdoor recreation and sense of place in peri-urban landscape as a useful first step towards sustainable land use and in a format that complements the working processes of landscape planners and decisionmakers. The results will consolidate the knowledge base underpinning the design and implementation of policies to protect, regulate and manage peri-urban areas at landscape scale. This integrated approach will make a valuable contribution to how professionals understand the dynamic nature of the peri-urban landscape, defining the role of CES in peri-urban landscape planning and scheduling the integration of CES in all phases of space regulation, from planning to management.


Slovenian Research Agency – ARRS

Basic information about the project

ARRS project number: Z5-4589
Project duration: October 2022 – October 2024

Work packages (WPs)

The research project consists of five subprogrammes organised as work packages (WP) and activities (A).

WP1: Database creation

To map outdoor recreation and sense of place, we will develop a multisource database comprising different geospatial data. In WP1, we will identify and quantify CES in the peri-urban landscape, primarily by means of a literature review and meta-analysis. We will collect existing data from relevant national and international (EU) databases (e.g. land cover, protected areas, demographics, environmental quality), along with findings from international and national research and spatial planning and management documents pertaining to the case studies. The doctoral research will provide additional knowledge. Specific activities will be:

A 1.1: Study of relevant existing materials:

  1. literature review about existing theoretical conceptualisations of CES, existing theoretical conceptualisations of the peri-urban landscape, successful methodological approaches to CES mapping and classification of value of CES outdoor recreation and sense of place.
  2. review and survey of spatial documents.
  3. review of existing CES valuation models.

A 1.2: Documentation and review of existing CES indicators:

Based on the scantiness of published CES indicators, this research will explore and review CES indicators as a prerequisite for mapping CES in peri-urban landscape.

A 1.3: Analysis and evaluation of existing data from the above-mentioned sources.

This activity will evaluate findings from the literature review and form a basis for the practical application of the methods in the case study cities.

WP2: Mapping CES in the peri-urban landscape

In WP2, we will design an approach for mapping CES outdoor recreation and sense of place in peri-urban landscapes, based on a review of indicators and methods in the literature and with due regard to the characteristics of the case study areas and the available information. Based on the primary spatial data gathered in WP1 and the identified data gaps, we will develop other datasets (e.g. accessibility levels, green space size, number of natural features, etc.), with particular attention to the incorporation of a social dimension in mapping. The work will be done in a structured procedure, as described below.

A 2.1: Preparation of methodology for mapping CES indicators in peri-urban landscape:

The methodology will be done based on the selection of the attributes and spatial criteria that determine CES outdoor recreation and sense of place in peri-urban landscapes of case study cities. The next step will involve a development of new datasets.

A 2.2: Development of a multisource database.

All gathered and developed datasets will be assembled in a GIS database.

WP3: Mapping validation

Mapping validation will focus on incorporating social evaluation in the mapping process. Missing data will be collected through public participation, using a survey with green space users and interviews with spatial planners and decision-makers. We will test the developed indicators on case studies, proposing CES mapping improvements in order to establish a valuation framework for CES in peri-urban landscapes (WP4).

A 3.1: Socio-cultural assessment:

The assessment will be done based on the preparation of the methods to validate attributes and spatial criteria, setting up protocols for data collection and development, and data collection and assessment.

A 3.2: Construction of indicators for CES outdoor recreation and sense of place:

The indicators will be developed based on the incorporation of social evaluation in the maps and the identification of limitations with regard to mapping CES.

A 3.3: Testing of proposed indicators:

  1. case study testing;
  2. testing of proposed CES indicators’ transferability to different types of (peri-urban) landscape.

A 3.4: Predlog novih konceptualnih in praktičnih izboljšav.

A 3.4: Proposal of new conceptual and practical improvements

WP4: CES valuation framework

We will incorporate in the valuation framework for CES outdoor recreation and sense of place the information gained from key informants and stakeholders, since the combination of expert judgement and stakeholder engagement is crucial to identify, quantify and value CES, and to validate the maps obtained.

A 4.1: Construction of analytical framework for value mapping:

The analytical frame will be designed according to social and spatial aspects. The social aspects will be primarily explored with stakeholder survey, focusing on outdoor recreation and sense of place. If the survey will not provide sufficient information to determine the value, we will complement it with additional methods (e.g. social media analysis, focus groups), and validate the results with the expert interviews. The spatial aspects will draw from established multisource database and will be validated with expert interviews. This will be followed by the analysis of mechanisms for incorporating the value of CES in landscape planning and policy-making: barriers and opportunities.

A 4.2: Categorisation of different CES outdoor recreation and sense of place values:

  1. systematisation and evaluation of data collected by mapping;
  2. identification of values that are or are not included in the framework;
  3. establishment of criteria for valuation, based on ecological structure and social evaluation.

A 4.3: Empirical testing of the proposed framework:

The final valuation framework will be tested on case studies, its usefulness will be discussed with experts and other potential users.

WP5: Recommendations for the way forward: integration in spatial planning and policy-making

In this package, the research findings will be summarised into recommendations for spatial planning and policy-making on regional and local level. Furthermore, we will analyse the methodological approach and the potential of mapping protocol to be included in landscape planning procedures. We will also assess the engagement of experts and stakeholders at different stages of CES assessment (i.e., identification, valuation, mapping) and stress the need where this could be improved.

A 5.1: Development of spatial planning and policy recommendation.

In Slovenia, the importance of recognising (C)ES in spatial planning and policy is stressed in several strategic documents on national and regional level (e.g., Spatial Planning Strategy of Slovenia 2050 - draft, 2020; Regional Development Programme of the Ljubljana Urban Region, 2020; Spatial Planning Strategy of Slovenia, 2004), mostly in connection to green infrastructure and referring to EU Green Infrastructure Strategy (EU, 2013). These documents offer a supporting ground for this research objectives but they do not address the specifics of either peri-urban landscape or CES. Thus, our recommendations will target relevant implementation documents at the sub-regional to local level, promoting cross-sectional cooperation in pursuit of integrated spatial planning and institutional governance (Žlender, 2021b).

Spatial planning on local level is in Slovenia regulated with municipal spatial plans (OPNs). These plans should be prepared by each municipality and revised within certain time periods, however a considerable number of municipalities is still without a valid OPN. In existing OPNs, peri-urban landscape is rarely mentioned and (C)ES even less (Žlender, 2021b), despite above-mentioned strategic documents stressing the importance of recognising CES in spatial policy. The problem often lies in lack of data and expert knowledge for envisioning long-term sustainable development. This was confirmed in a national research project named ‘Ven za zdravje’, in which the candidate took part. In the frame of ‘Ven za zdravje’ project, expert materials were developed to support municipalities in spatial planning of green areas aimed at promoting physical activities for citizens. In that project, the candidate gained experience about mechanisms, structure, needs and obstacles in the process of integrating recommendations into legal frameworks. Therefore, we are confident to be able to develop this research findings to provide expert basis for formulations and revisions of OPNs. Primarily, we will develop recommendations for case study cities, but will also generalize them to expand their usefulness to other municipalities.

A 5.2: Development of CES outdoor recreation and sense of place maps

Results on CES outdoor recreation and sense of place capacity and demand derived from this research will elevate consideration of CES in policy-making and help to fulfil the need for additional mapping of CES. The maps developed will be made available to regional and local policy-makers. Furthermore, expert consultations and stakeholder opinions will also help us to determine alternative ways to mapping, of communicating the results to wider audience.

A 5.3: Contribution of the methodological framework.

The methodological framework, developed in this study, will have the potential to identify and demarcate favoured peri-urban green spaces for outdoor recreation and spaces with strong sense of place. It will also highlight the potential of peri-urban green spaces to decision-makers, possibly uncovering the potential of spaces other than well-known and for visitation popular areas. Furthermore, it will offer grounds to integrate CES outdoor recreation and sense of place into ES assessment and thus facilitate a more holistic approach to landscape development. We hope that the framework will be helpful in determining the approach to treat peri-urban landscape (territorial vs. sectorial) and finally, that will deliver further unexpected contributions, valuable for research and practice.

A 5.4: Recommendations testing and possible generalization.

Based on the final results, we will make recommendations for different levels of policy-making. We will test the results (recommendations and methodological approach) on case studies and discuss their usefulness with experts and policy-makers. Finally, we will generalize them to ensure their usefulness beyond the case study cities. 

A 5.5: Dissemination of results.

The project results and recommendations will be forwarded to local administrations responsible for spatial planning, as well as to relevant planning practitioners, other potential users and all participants in the research process. The results will also be published in internationally recognised scientific journals and presented at international conferences and public lectures, as well as exploiting other opportunities as they emerge.


The proposed project involves five sections over two years, to be conducted in three phases. 1. Analytical phase: indicating and quantifying (year 1). 2. Development phase: mapping and assessing (years 1 and 2). 3. Resolution phase: valuing (year 2). Within each phase, implementation of work packages and activities are linked to provide essential feedback on the relevance and utility of the results of the previous work package.

Work packages, their structure and duration are presented in the following table:


Work package (WP) /
activity (A)

Duration by months
Analytical phase – indicating and quantifying

Development phase –
apping and assessing

Resolution phase –


























Database creation

























A 1.1

Study of relevant existing materials

























A 1.2

Documentation and review of existing CES indicators

























A 1.3

Analysis and evaluation of existing data


























Mapping CES in the peri-urban landscape

























A 2.1

Preparation of methodology for mapping CES indicators in peri-urban landscapes

























A 2.2

Development of a multisource database


























Mapping validation

























A 3.1

Socio-cultural assessment

























A 3.2

Construction of CES outdoor recreation and sense of place indicators

























A 3.3

Testing of proposed indicators

























A 3.4

Proposal of new conceptual and practical improvements


























CES valuation framework

























A 4.1

Construction of analytical framework for value mapping

























A 4.2

Categorisation of different CES outdoor recreation and sense of place values

























A 4.3

Empirical testing of the proposed framework



















































A 5.1

Development of recommendations

























A 5.2

Development of CES outdoor recreation and sense of place maps

























A 5.3

Contribution of the methodological framework

























A 5.4

Recommendations testing and generalization

























A 5.5

Dissemination of results

























Results and published materials