Uncertainties in land use data may have substantial effects on environmental planning recommendations: A plea for careful consideration

PLoS One. 2021 Nov 24;16(11):e0260302. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0260302. eCollection 2021.


A key challenge of environmental planning is to craft recommendations for future sustainable spatial development amid ubiquitous uncertainties. This paper aims to explore how different data uncertainties, usually unknown to the planner, may influence environmental planning recommendations. We apply a case study-based approach, in which we provide three illustrative examples of how data with different kinds and levels of uncertainty affect environmental assessments and, by that, the decision-support provided by environmental planning. The cases stem from different spatial levels in Germany and consider ‘Regional soil-based climate change mitigation’ in the region of Hannover, ‘State-wide habitat conservation siting’ in the federal state of Saxony-Anhalt, and ‘National renewable energy planning’. Based on the three examples, we discuss implications for planning practice and derive recommendations for further research. The three cases studies illustrate the substantial effects of data uncertainty on environmental assessments and planning recommendations derived from those results. We identify four problem constellations of dealing with data uncertainty in environmental planning that relate to the severeness of uncertainty impacts, the responsibility of the decision-maker, and the kinds of impacts that wrong decisions may have. We close with recommendations for further research, among others to develop robust and pragmatic methods for identifying the uncertainty levels in environmental data and assessment results.

PMID:34818356 | PMC:PMC8612552 | DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0260302


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