Linking ecosystem goods and services to sustainability, risks and opportunities : informing decision-making in the Msunduzi Municipality, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
Sustainable development’s wide scale adoption has resulted in the rapid emergence of the field Sustainability Science. This trans-disciplinary field of research attempts to understand the interconnectedness, relationships and complexity between the natural environment and society. To understand these relationships and integration between the natural environment, the economy and society within a sustainability context, an ecosystem goods and services (EGS) approach can be taken. EGS research is being incorporated into mainstream environmental decision-making and strategic thinking, particularly within the corporate sector, however, adoption has been slow. The Corporate Ecosystem Services Review (ESR) is a framework, developed by the World Research Institute (WRI), which aims to assess the dependence and impact that a company has on EGS through a systematic approach. This methodological framework can be adapted into a tool that assists in more informed environmental decision-making at a local government level. This adapted tool highlights EGS issues within particular open spaces and links these issues to sustainability targets and identifies risks and opportunities for local government. For this research, the ESR tool was tested on open spaces within the Msunduzi Municipality, KwaZulu-Natal, by adapting the ESR methodological framework to relate to local government decision-making and by incorporating existing tools and strategic documents, namely the Environmental Management Framework (EMF) and the Spatial Development Framework (SDF), into the EGS assessment tool. Site-specific EGS issues were identified at two open space study sites through posing different development scenarios, and results from testing the tool revealed linkages between EGS and risks and opportunities for sustainability. The tool has applicability to local level decision-making, particularly in the early stages of development planning, by providing a more holistic input into the environmental decision-making process.
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