Background/Question/Methods Shortages in the provision of ecosystem services, termed ‘benefit-gaps’, represent a challenge in ES conservation planning. A solution to reduce benefit-gaps while minimizing costs of restoration is to manage underused or unattractive spaces, such as abandoned farm fields, channelized rivers, and vacant lots, located in areas of benefit-gap. Our main objective was to develop a framework to include the reduction of benefit-gaps in systematic conservation planning exercises. We applied this framework to the study region of the agglomeration of Quebec using vacant lot management as opportunities to improve ES provision in complementarity with natural ecosystems. For that we mapped the potential of natural and semi-natural ecosystems to provide three ecosystem services: carbon storage, cooling effects and recreation. We mapped soil and aboveground carbon storage using a combination of data from literature and field work. We calculated the cooling effects provision as the average surface temperature reduction weighted by vegetation cover, while the demand as the population size weighted by local vulnerability to heat waves, which is related to social factors. We modelled recreation provision using geo-tagged social media data, along with land cover, accessibility, and attractions data. We ranked cells of higher demand/provision rate as of higher benefit-gap.
Results/Conclusions The approach we developed consists in three main steps. The first step was to encounter the current benefit-gaps for different ecosystem services. The second step was to select potential management possibilities for vacant lots which could reduce benefit-gaps. The last step was to include the current and potential ES demand and provision into a systematic conservation planning approach with the objective of selecting optimal networks of sites to fulfill ES demand. We found that benefit-gaps for cooling effects and recreation are distributed throughout different regions in our study area. Based on literature and on a survey with the local population, we found that forests would promote the highest reduction in benefit gaps of cooling effects, while urban parks would be best for recreation purposes. This result indicates that specific types of management are more adequate for specific landscapes. We found that including the management of vacant lots can improve ES provision to a limit, therefore finding additional sites for management could be needed. We offer a practical solution for selecting sites for management considering specific ES needs due to shortages in ES provision. The same approach could be used for comparing other types of management, such as different restoration techniques.