Incorporating Ecosystem Services into Urban Planning in Mexico

Conservation Strategy Fund, in partnership with GIZ, provided technical and political guidance on how to integrate ecosystem service values into urban planning to the city governments of León, Mérida and Morelia.

These three cities are currently facing a number of challenges: a reduction in water quantity and quality, air pollution, soil erosion, flooding, unplanned urban expansion, and land use change. The protected areas and ecosystems around these cities are critical to addressing some of these challenges, as they provide important ecosystem services like clean water, food, soil retention, and climate regulation. CSF’s role was to provide necessary information on the economic value of protected areas and sustainably managed ecosystems to support better urban planning. In addition, CSF provided information that could serve as a model for other cities in the future.

CSF worked with the local government in each city, including the Municipality Planning Institutes, water agencies, protected areas management teams, land owners, and other key stakeholders to understand the problems each city is facing. While each city has its own unique set of challenges that need to be addressed, there are other challenges, such as water scarcity and security, which are problematic for all three cities.

In Morelia, we conducted a contingent valuation study for a potential fee for water use, which is now being used to develop a payment for ecosystem services program in the municipality. The study provided the information required to define a voluntary fee for city residents that will be used to implement conservation and restoration actions in some of the watersheds. 

In León, our study identified that the Zapotillo Dam, an interesting substitute for water provision for the city, is very sensitive to increases in costs, possibly making it financially unviable. We also identified that maintaining and increasing forest cover could substantially reduce health costs related to air pollution and air quality. Finally, our contingent valuation study for potential fees surrounding water use and vehicle emissions is now being used to develop a payment for ecosystem services program in the municipality.  

In Mérida, we developed a choice experiment to implement a financial mechanism for forest compensation. Under this mechanism, a project developer will have to pay a fee for developing a site based on the biological characteristics and environmental impacts incurred as a result of development. 

Read our policy briefs (in Spanish) for each city here: Morelia, León, and Mérida

This project was part of the Climate Protection Program in the Mexican Urban Policy "CiClim", financed by the International Climate Initiative (IKI) and implemented by GIZ.  CiClim provides technical advice and strategic support to promote sustainable urban development in Mexico, focusing on mobility, environmental, and social needs. The project partners worked closely with the Ministry of Agrarian, Territorial and Urban Development (SEDATU), the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT), and local administrations in Hermosillo, León, Mérida, Morelia and Tlaquepaque. 

Photo: Mérida from above

Photo Credit: Iren Key/