Indigenous and local knowledge systems as well as practitioners' knowledge can provide valid and useful knowledge to enhance our understanding of governance of biodiversity and ecosystems for human well-being. There is, therefore, a great need within emerging global assessment programs, such as the IPBES and other international efforts, to develop functioning mechanisms for legitimate, transparent, and constructive ways of creating synergies across knowledge systems. We present the multiple evidence base (MEB) as an approach that proposes parallels whereby indigenous, local and scientific knowledge systems are viewed to generate different manifestations of knowledge, which can generate new insights and innovations through complementarities. MEB emphasizes that evaluation of knowledge occurs primarily within rather than across knowledge systems. MEB on a particular issue creates an enriched picture of understanding, for triangulation and joint assessment of knowledge, and a starting point for further knowledge generation.
Although a number of comprehensive reviews have examined global ecosystem services (ES), few have focused on studies that assess urban ecosystem services (UES). Given that more than half of the world's population lives in cities, understanding the dualism of the provision of and need for UES is of critical importance. Which UES are the focus of research, and what types of urban land use are examined? Are models or decision support systems used to assess the provision of UES? Are trade-offs considered? Do studies of UES engage stakeholders? To address these questions, we analyzed 217 papers derived from an ISI Web of Knowledge search using a set of standardized criteria. The results indicate that most UES studies have been undertaken in Europe, North America, and China, at city scale. Assessment methods involve bio-physical models, Geographical Information Systems, and valuation, but few study findings have been implemented as land use policy.
Abstract Over the past century, the total material wealth of humanity has been enhanced. However, in the twentyfirst century, we face scarcity in critical resources, the degradation of ecosystem services, and the erosion of the planet's capability to absorb our wastes. Equity issues remain stubbornly difficult to solve. This situation is novel in its speed, its global scale and its threat to the resilience of the Earth System. The advent of the Anthropence, the time interval in which human activities now rival global geophysical processes, suggests that we need to fundamentally alter our relationship with the planet we inhabit. Many approaches could be adopted, ranging from geoengineering solutions that purposefully manipulate parts of the Earth System to becoming active stewards of our own life support system. The Anthropocene is a reminder that the Holocene, during which complex human societies have developed, has been a stable, accommodating environment and is the only state of the Earth System that we...
Urban landscapes are the everyday environment for the majority of the global population, and almost 80 % of the Europeans live in urban areas. The continuous growth in the number and size of urban areas along with an increasing demand on resources and energy poses great challenges for ensuring human welfare in cities while preventing an increasing loss of biodiversity. The understanding of how urban ecosystems function, provide goods and services for urban dwellers; and how they change and what allows and limits their performance can add to the understanding of ecosystem change and governance in general in an ever more human-dominated world. This Special Issue aims at bridging the knowledge gap among urbanization, demand creation, and provisioning of ecosystem services in urban regions on the one hand and schemes of urban governance and planning on the other.
There is an ongoing debate on what constitutes sustainable intensification of agriculture (SIA). In this paper, we propose that a paradigm for sustainable intensification can be defined and translated into an operational framework for agricultural development. We argue that this paradigm must now be defined—at all scales—in the context of rapidly rising global environmental changes in the Anthropocene, while focusing on eradicating poverty and hunger and contributing to human wellbeing. The criteria and approach we propose, for a paradigm shift towards sustainable intensification of agriculture, integrates the dual and interdependent goals of using sustainable practices to meet rising human needs while contributing to resilience and sustainability of landscapes, the biosphere, and the Earth system. Both of these, in turn, are required to sustain the future viability of agriculture. This paradigm shift aims at repositioning world agriculture from its current role as the world’s single largest driver of global environmental change, to becoming a key contributor of a global transition to a sustainable world within a safe operating space on Earth.
Despite substantial focus on sustainability issues in both science and politics, humanity remains on largely unsustainable development trajectories. Partly, this is due to the failure of sustainability science to engage with the root causes of unsustainability. Drawing on ideas by Donella Meadows, we argue that many sustainability interventions target highly tangible, but essentially weak, leverage points (i.e. using interventions that are easy, but have limited potential for transformational change). Thus, there is an urgent need to focus on less obvious but potentially far more powerful areas of intervention. We propose a research agenda inspired by systems thinking that focuses on transformational ‘sustainability interventions’, centred on three realms of leverage: reconnecting people to nature, restructuring institutions and rethinking how knowledge is created and used in pursuit of sustainability. The notion of leverage points has the potential to act as a boundary object for genuinely transformational sustainability science.
Within-city green infrastructure can offer opportunities and new contexts for people to become stewards of ecosystem services. We analyze cities as social–ecological systems, synthesize the literature, and provide examples from more than 15 years of research in the Stockholm urban region, Sweden. The social–ecological approach spans from investigating ecosystem properties to the social frameworks and personal values that drive and shape human interactions with nature. Key findings demonstrate that urban ecosystem services are generated by social-ecological systems and that local stewards are critically important. However, land-use planning and management seldom account for their role in the generation of urban ecosystem services. While the small scale patchwork of land uses in cities stimulates intense interactions across borders much focus is still on individual patches. The results highlight the importance and complexity of stewardship of urban biodiversity and ecosystem services and of the planning and governance of urban green infrastructure.
Abstract This article explores the links between agency, institutions, and innovation in navigating shifts and large-scale transformations toward global sustainability. Our central question is whether social and technical innovations can reverse the trends that are challenging critical thresholds and creating tipping points in the earth system, and if not, what conditions are necessary to escape the current lock-in. Large-scale transformations in information technology, nano- and biotechnology, and new energy systems have the potential to significantly improve our lives; but if, in framing them, our globalized society fails to consider the capacity of the biosphere, there is a risk that unsustainable development pathways may be reinforced. Current institutional arrangements, including the lack of incentives for the private sector to innovate for sustainability, and the lags inherent in the path dependent nature of innovation, contribute to lock-in, as does our incapacity to easily grasp the interactions i...
Abstract We explore the development of the Anthropocene, the current epoch in which humans and our societies have become a global geophysical force. The Anthropocene began around 1800 with the onset of industrialization, the central feature of which was the enormous expansion in the use of fossil fuels. We use atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration as a single, simple indicator to track the progression of the Anthropocene. From a preindustrial value of 270–275 ppm, atmospheric carbon dioxide had risen to about 310 ppm by 1950. Since then the human enterprise has experienced a remarkable explosion, the Great Acceleration, with significant consequences for Earth System functioning. Atmospheric CO2 concentration has risen from 310 to 380 ppm since 1950, with about half of the total rise since the preindustrial era occurring in just the last 30 years. The Great Acceleration is reaching criticality. Whatever unfolds, the next few decades will surely be a tipping point in the evolution of the Anthropocene.
Green infrastructure (GI) and ecosystem services (ES) are promoted as concepts that have potential to improve environmental planning in urban areas based on a more holistic understanding of the complex interrelations and dynamics of social–ecological systems. However, the scientific discourses around both concepts still lack application-oriented frameworks that consider such a holistic perspective and are suitable to mainstream GI and ES in planning practice. This literature review explores how multifunctionality as one important principle of GI planning can be operationalized by approaches developed and tested in ES research. Specifically, approaches developed in ES research can help to assess the integrity of GI networks, balance ES supply and demand, and consider trade-offs. A conceptual framework for the assessment of multifunctionality from a social–ecological perspective is proposed that can inform the design of planning processes and support stronger exchange between GI and ES research.
Abstract Humanity has emerged as a major force in the operation of the biosphere, with a significant imprint on the Earth System, challenging social-ecological resilience. This new situation calls for a fundamental shift in perspectives, world views, and institutions. Human development and progress must be reconnected to the capacity of the biosphere and essential ecosystem services to be sustained. Governance challenges include a highly interconnected and faster world, cascading social-ecological interactions and planetary boundaries that create vulnerabilities but also opportunities for social-ecological change and transformation. Tipping points and thresholds highlight the importance of understanding and managing resilience. New modes of flexible governance are emerging. A central challenge is to reconnect these efforts to the changing preconditions for societal development as active stewards of the Earth System. We suggest that the Millennium Development Goals need to be reframed in such a planetary s...
We present a historical overview of forest concepts and definitions, linking these changes with distinct perspectives and management objectives. Policies dealing with a broad range of forest issues are often based on definitions created for the purpose of assessing global forest stocks, which do not distinguish between natural and planted forests or reforests, and which have not proved useful in assessing national and global rates of forest regrowth and restoration. Implementing and monitoring forest and landscape restoration requires additional approaches to defining and assessing forests that reveal the qualities and trajectories of forest patches in a spatially and temporally dynamic landscape matrix. New technologies and participatory assessment of forest states and trajectories offer the potential to operationalize such definitions. Purpose-built and contextualized definitions are needed to support policies that successfully protect, sustain, and regrow forests at national and global scales. We provide a framework to illustrate how different management objectives drive the relative importance of different aspects of forest state, dynamics, and landscape context.
We review recent progress in our understanding of the global cycling of mercury (Hg), including best estimates of Hg concentrations and pool sizes in major environmental compartments and exchange processes within and between these reservoirs. Recent advances include the availability of new global datasets covering areas of the world where environmental Hg data were previously lacking; integration of these data into global and regional models is continually improving estimates of global Hg cycling. New analytical techniques, such as Hg stable isotope characterization, provide novel constraints of sources and transformation processes. The major global Hg reservoirs that are, and continue to be, affected by anthropogenic activities include the atmosphere (4.4–5.3 Gt), terrestrial environments (particularly soils: 250–1000 Gg), and aquatic ecosystems (e.g., oceans: 270–450 Gg). Declines in anthropogenic Hg emissions between 1990 and 2010 have led to declines in atmospheric Hg0 concentrations and HgII wet deposition in Europe and the US (− 1.5 to − 2.2% per year). Smaller atmospheric Hg0 declines (− 0.2% per year) have been reported in high northern latitudes, but not in the southern hemisphere, while increasing atmospheric Hg loads are still reported in East Asia. New observations and updated models now suggest high concentrations of oxidized HgII in the tropical and subtropical free troposphere where deep convection can scavenge these HgII reservoirs. As a result, up to 50% of total global wet HgII deposition has been predicted to occur to tropical oceans. Ocean Hg0 evasion is a large source of present-day atmospheric Hg (approximately 2900 Mg/year; range 1900–4200 Mg/year). Enhanced seawater Hg0 levels suggest enhanced Hg0 ocean evasion in the intertropical convergence zone, which may be linked to high HgII deposition. Estimates of gaseous Hg0 emissions to the atmosphere over land, long considered a critical Hg source, have been revised downward, and most terrestrial environments now are considered net sinks of atmospheric Hg due to substantial Hg uptake by plants. Litterfall deposition by plants is now estimated at 1020–1230 Mg/year globally. Stable isotope analysis and direct flux measurements provide evidence that in many ecosystems Hg0 deposition via plant inputs dominates, accounting for 57–94% of Hg in soils. Of global aquatic Hg releases, around 50% are estimated to occur in China and India, where Hg drains into the West Pacific and North Indian Oceans. A first inventory of global freshwater Hg suggests that inland freshwater Hg releases may be dominated by artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM; approximately 880 Mg/year), industrial and wastewater releases (220 Mg/year), and terrestrial mobilization (170–300 Mg/year). For pelagic ocean regions, the dominant source of Hg is atmospheric deposition; an exception is the Arctic Ocean, where riverine and coastal erosion is likely the dominant source. Ocean water Hg concentrations in the North Atlantic appear to have declined during the last several decades but have increased since the mid-1980s in the Pacific due to enhanced atmospheric deposition from the Asian continent. Finally, we provide examples of ongoing and anticipated changes in Hg cycling due to emission, climate, and land use changes. It is anticipated that future emissions changes will be strongly dependent on ASGM, as well as energy use scenarios and technology requirements implemented under the Minamata Convention. We predict that land use and climate change impacts on Hg cycling will be large and inherently linked to changes in ecosystem function and global atmospheric and ocean circulations. Our ability to predict multiple and simultaneous changes in future Hg global cycling and human exposure is rapidly developing but requires further enhancement.
Mounting research highlights the contribution of ecosystem services provided by urban forests to quality of life in cities, yet these services are rarely explicitly considered in environmental policy targets. We quantify regulating services provided by urban forests and evaluate their contribution to comply with policy targets of air quality and climate change mitigation in the municipality of Barcelona, Spain. We apply the i-Tree Eco model to quantify in biophysical and monetary terms the ecosystem services "air purification," "global climate regulation," and the ecosystem disservice "air pollution" associated with biogenic emissions. Our results show that the contribution of urban forests regulating services to abate pollution is substantial in absolute terms, yet modest when compared to overall city levels of air pollution and GHG emissions. We conclude that in order to be effective, green infrastructure-based efforts to offset urban pollution at the municipal level have to be coordinated with territorial policies at broader spatial scales.
Food production in Europe is dependent on imported phosphorus (P) fertilizers, but P use is inefficient and losses to the environment high. Here, we discuss possible solutions by changes in P management. We argue that not only the use of P fertilizers and P additives in feed could be reduced by fine-tuning fertilization and feeding to actual nutrient requirements, but also P from waste has to be completely recovered and recycled in order to close the P balance of Europe regionally and become less dependent on the availability of P-rock reserves. Finally, climate-smart P management measures are needed, to reduce the expected deterioration of surface water quality resulting from climate-change-induced P loss.
The study of societal transformation in response to environmental change has become established, yet little consensus exists regarding the conceptual basis of transformation. This paper aims to provide structure to the dialog on transformation, and to reflect on the challenges of social research in this area. Concepts of transformation are identified through a literature review, and examined using four analytical criteria. It is found that the term 'transformation' is frequently used merely as a metaphor. When transformation is not used as a metaphor, eight concepts are most frequently employed. They differ with respect to (i) system conceptualization, (ii) notions of social consciousness (deliberate/emergent), and (iii) outcome (prescriptive/descriptive). Problem-based research tends to adopt concepts of deliberate transformation with prescriptive outcome, while concepts of emergent transformation with no prescriptive outcome tend to inform descriptive-analytical research. Dialog around the complementarities of different concepts and their empirical testing are priorities for future research.
The area of forest plantations is increasing worldwide helping to meet timber demand and protect natural forests. However, with global change, monospecific plantations are increasingly vulnerable to abiotic and biotic disturbances. As an adaption measure we need to move to plantations that are more diverse in genotypes, species, and structure, with a design underpinned by science. TreeDivNet, a global network of tree diversity experiments, responds to this need by assessing the advantages and disadvantages of mixed species plantations. The network currently consists of 18 experiments, distributed over 36 sites and five ecoregions. With plantations 1–15 years old, TreeDivNet can already provide relevant data for forest policy and management. In this paper, we highlight some early results on the carbon sequestration and pest resistance potential of more diverse plantations. Finally, suggestions are made for new, innovative experiments in understudied regions to complement the existing network.
The series of papers in this issue of AMBIO represent technical presentations made at the 7th International Phosphorus Workshop (IPW7), held in September, 2013 in Uppsala, Sweden. At that meeting, the 150 delegates were involved in round table discussions on major, predetermined themes facing the management of agricultural phosphorus (P) for optimum production goals with minimal water quality impairment. The six themes were (1) P management in a changing world; (2) transport pathways of P from soil to water; (3) monitoring, modeling, and communication; (4) importance of manure and agricultural production systems for P management; (5) identification of appropriate mitigation measures for reduction of P loss; and (6) implementation of mitigation strategies to reduce P loss. This paper details the major challenges and research needs that were identified for each theme and identifies a future roadmap for catchment management that cost-effectively minimizes P loss from agricultural activities.
Abstract Urbanization is a global multidimensional process paired with increasing uncertainty due to climate change, migration of people, and changes in the capacity to sustain ecosystem services. This article lays a foundation for discussing transitions in urban governance, which enable cities to navigate change, build capacity to withstand shocks, and use experimentation and innovation in face of uncertainty. Using the three concrete case cities— New Orleans, Cape Town, and Phoenix—the article analyzes thresholds and cross-scale interactions, and expands the scale at which urban resilience has been discussed by integrating the idea from geography that cities form part of “system of cities” (i.e., they cannot be seen as single entities). Based on this, the article argues that urban governance need to harness social networks of urban innovation to sustain ecosystem services, while nurturing discourses that situate the city as part of regional ecosystems. The article broadens the discussion on urban resili...
Non-point source (NPS) pollution has been increasingly serious in China since the 1990s. The increases of agricultural NPS pollution in China is evaluated for the period 2000—2008 by surveying the literature on water and soil pollution from fertilizers and pesticides, and assessing the surplus nitrogen balance within provinces. The main causes for NPS pollution were excessive inputs of nitrogen fertilizer and pesticides, which were partly the result of the inadequate agricultural extension services and the rapid expansion of intensive livestock production with little of waste management. The annual application of synthetic nitrogen fertilizers and pesticides in China increased by 50.7 and 119.7%, respectively, during 1991-2008. The mitigation measures to reduce NPS pollution include: correct distortion in fertilizer prices; improve incentives for the recycling of organic manure; provide farmers with better information on the sound use of agro-chemicals; and tighten the regulations and national standards on organic waste disposal and pesticides use.