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A context-sensitive systems approach for understanding and enabling ecosystem service realization in cities

Erik Andersson, Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden; North-West University, Unit for Environmental Sciences, Potchefstroom, South Africa
Sara Borgström, Department of Sustainable Development, Environmental Science and Engineering, The Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden
Dagmar Haase, Department of Geography, Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, Berlin, Germany; Department of Computational Landscape Ecology, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ, Leipzig, Germany
Johannes Langemeyer, Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (ICTA), Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain; Department of Geography, Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, Berlin, Germany
André Mascarenhas, Department of Geography, Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, Berlin, Germany
Timon McPhearson, Urban Systems Lab, The New School, New York, New York, USA; Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, Millbrook, New York, USA; Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
Manuel Wolff, Department of Geography, Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, Berlin, Germany; Department of Urban and Environmental Sociology, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ, Leipzig, Germany
Edyta Łaszkiewicz, Social-Ecological Systems Analysis Lab, University of Lodz, Lodz, Poland
Jakub Kronenberg, Social-Ecological Systems Analysis Lab, University of Lodz, Lodz, Poland
David N. Barton, Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA), Oslo, Norway
Pablo Herreros-Cantis, Urban Systems Lab, The New School, New York, New York, USA

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-12411-260235

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Abstract

Understanding opportunities as well as constraints for people to benefit from and take care of urban nature is an important step toward more sustainable cities. In order to explore, engage, and enable strategies to improve urban quality of life, we combine a social-ecological-technological systems framework with a flexible methodological approach to urban studies. The framework focuses on context dependencies in the flow and distribution of ecosystem service benefits within cities.

The shared conceptual system framework supports a clear positioning of individual cases and integration of multiple methods, while still allowing for flexibility for aligning with local circumstances and ensuring context-relevant knowledge. To illustrate this framework, we draw on insights from a set of exploratory case studies used to develop and test how the framework could guide research design and synthesis across multiple heterogeneous cases.

Relying on transdisciplinary multi- and mixed methods research designs, our approach seeks to both enable within-case analyses and support and gradually build a cumulative understanding across cases and city contexts.

Finally, we conclude by discussing key questions about green and blue infrastructure and its contributions to urban quality of life that the approach can help address, as well as remaining knowledge gaps both in our understanding of urban systems and of the methodological approaches we use to fill these gaps.

Key words

comparative studies; ecosystem services; green and blue infrastructure; institutions; perceptions; social-ecological-technological systems

Copyright © 2021 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087