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Renaturation and Ecosystem Services of Contaminated Urban Wastelands in France

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In urban areas, many wastelands deriving from former industrial activities may contain degraded and polluted soils. When reconversion of these wastelands is included in a renaturation project, it opens the way to more extensive approaches in favor of biodiversity and ecosystems. The designers of a future brownfield redevelopment projects must therefore think upstream about the clean-up strategy that is least harmful to biodiversity. The stated objective is to breathe new life into degraded soils while designing a new landscape based on the dynamics and resilience of ecological systems. Choices are not easy to make insofar as projects do not have the same time horizon as the dynamics of ecological systems. While ecosystem services can structure projects, we show that the renaturation of polluted wastelands is a very complex subject because it also comes up against the complexity of urban territories and the diversity of ways of thinking, which causes tensions and sometimes incomprehension about the future of the environment that is to be built. It is therefore necessary to gather feedback from in situ experiments carried out in projects for the phytomanagement of formerly polluted wastelands.


  • Polluted soil
  • Industrial wasteland
  • Urban nature
  • France
  • Ecosystem services
  • Stakeholders

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  • DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-74882-1_12
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Fig. 1
Fig. 2

(Source Modified after Chalmandrier et al. 2019)


  1. 1.

    For example, the function of maintaining an uncultivated wastelands ecosystem can be seen as an advantage for an ecological engineer (maintenance of natural habitats), whereas it will be considered uninteresting for some form of agronomy (no production system)—note that agroecology attempts to link the two disciplines, see below.

  2. 2.

    For example, the French working group “Risks related to collective and private urban gardens.”

  3. 3.

    National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies.

  4. 4.

    This parameter defines the fraction of a contaminant that will actually be absorbed by a living organism.

  5. 5.

    Territorial coherence scheme.

  6. 6.

    Local urban plan (municipality scale).

  7. 7.

    Local intermunicipal urban plan.

  8. 8.

    Technosols are a new category of soils, first proposed in 2006 to the World Reference Base for Soil Resources. They can be formed by natural or anthropogenic materials in variable proportions and, above all, they are dominated or highly influenced by human activity. They can be considered as artificial anthroposols (Monsérié 2009).

  9. 9.

    One m3 of micanthus is equivalent to about 130 kg.

  10. 10.

    In France, an EPF (Établissement Public Foncier) is a public agency that acquires land for development by a third party responsible for the construction of housing, new neighborhoods or public facilities ( The acquisition by EPF Nord-Pas-de-Calais of the 2,200 ha of slag heaps and their rights-of-way is part of the development of the regional green network and in particular that of the former mining basin, which has a large deficit of green spaces.

  11. 11.

    MisChar Project—Reconditioning of multi-contaminated soils using miscanthus biochar: ecological viability and socioeconomic value of management methods in urban and agricultural environments.

  12. 12.

    ADEME (Agence De l’Environnement et de la Maîtrise de l’Energie) is a French public Agency for the Environment and Energy Management.


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Correspondence to Yves Petit-Berghem .

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Petit-Berghem, Y., Rémy, E., Canavese, M. (2021). Renaturation and Ecosystem Services of Contaminated Urban Wastelands in France. In: Di Pietro, F., Robert, A. (eds) Urban Wastelands. Cities and Nature. Springer, Cham.

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