New survey out for just carbon-smart green spaces in Helsinki – please respond!

Oriol García-Antúnez & Jussi Lampinen

An ongoing survey directed to everyone living in Helsinki welcomes responses regarding your important green spaces and attitudes towards advancing carbon sequestration and storage in cities. Take the survey at mpt.link/hiiliviisas

Allotment garden in Aino Ackté Park, Pohjois-Haaga, Helsinki. Photograph: Ninaras, CC BY 4.0

By 2035, the city of Helsinki has the ambitious goal of becoming one of the first carbon-neutral cities in Europe. For that to happen, not only will the city need to cut emissions, but to also increase carbon sequestration and storage within the city borders. Do you think urban vegetation could be a possible way of achieving this? Urban green spaces are among the avenues towards carbon-neutrality that both the European Commision and the city of Helsinki have considered. Indeed, in both policy and research, the design and management of urban green spaces are suggested to be a cost-effective climate change mitigation strategy. 

However, while most of us know from school that plants turn carbon dioxide into biomass that can enter the soil via litter decay, this seemingly simple idea gets more complicated when elements of design and management of green spaces are included in the carbon equation. The way in which different vegetation types, design parameters and management regimes affect the flows and storages of carbon in urban green spaces is what CO-CARBON, a project funded by the Strategic Research Council (SRC) operating in connection with the Finnish Academy, is trying to find out. 

A further complication is that urban residents use green spaces in many ways. A 15-year-old teen does not expect the same from a park as, for example, a family with children or a retired couple. To advance carbon sequestration and storage in green spaces we will need to change the way in which we design and manage them. This will inevitably bear consequences not only regarding the physical appearance of green spaces, but also the social contexts and valuation through which residents view them. This is where working package 3, Envisioning just urban green infrastructure, of CO-CARBON, and a recently published survey directed at residents of Helsinki, come into play. 

In WP 3 of CO-CARBON, we focus on questions such as which of the current social values associated with green spaces will be lost, and which new ones will emerge from transformations aiming to advance carbon sequestration and storage? In addition, we aim to identify whose values and recreation experiences will be affected, so as to elicit possible injustices in the way costs and benefits of urban green space transformations are allocated among city residents. We believe it is essential to hear the voices of all user groups, and especially of those who are generally underrepresented or even excluded from decision-making processes, such as youth.

Let’s say we want to relax the management of forest remnants to promote carbon sequestration and storage and biodiversity. While for some, this forest remnant could be perceived as lush, wild and pleasant, others could find it messy, unappealing, dangerous and even inaccessible. This kind of variation in how green spaces efficient in CSS or high in biodiversity are valued by urban residents with different socio-economic backgrounds is among the core themes of an ongoing survey in Helsinki. Photograph: Julian Nyča, CC BY-SA 4.0

Social acceptability of new policies aiming to advance carbon-smartness in urban green spaces is also a central piece of our WP and the new Helsinki-scale survey. For example, we seek to explore how acceptability varies according to the spatial scale in which transformations are targeted, and how residents prioritize the different co-benefits we get from urban green spaces. Additionally, we are delving into public understanding of the role of urban green infrastructure in climate change mitigation. We are interested in discovering how people understand carbon sequestration and storage in the context of urban green infrastructure, and where in the city they locate these phenomena spatially. Literacy on ecological processes is the first step towards building public capabilities for informed individual acceptability judgments and behaviors, and it is a key prerequisite for a happy, resilient and functional society.

Thus, if you live in Helsinki, please help us co-create just and sustainable urban green spaces, and take our 20-minute survey at mpt.link/hiiliviisas

The survey welcomes responses in English, Finnish or Swedish until mid-October 2021. Thank you for your effort!

About the authors

Oriol is as an environmental biologist and nature manager passionate about the interactions between humans and the physical environment. Having recently defended his master thesis at the University of Copenhagen about barriers hindering wildlife friendly gardening, his research interests revolve around social barriers and levers of sustainable transitions in semi-natural and urban socio-ecological systems.

Jussi is a conservation ecologist with a broad interest in biodiversity conservation, human-nature relationships and navigating these two towards sustainable futures. His research topics include the conservation problematics of grasslands and their species, urban floristics and, more recently, urban green spaces from a social-ecological and environmental justice point of view.

Both of the authors have been working for CO-CARBON since early 2021.

The First “Senses of Place/Place Sensing” PhD Seminar Was a Success!

Kayleigh Kavanagh

As a part of the VIVA-PLAN project, the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) hosted a three-day online PhD seminar titled “Senses of Place/Place Sensing”. Bringing together scholars from eleven institutions and eight countries, the seminar explored the question “How should the researcher approach the problem of ‘place’ within the sensory analytic (e.g., sense of place/place sensing) in order discern, support, and cultivate progressive social and ecological values?”

Lectures and discussions included a wide range of topics, including:

  • From Sense to Senses, A Concept History by Christopher Raymond (University of Helsinki)
  • Creating Processes to Engage Communities in their Place – Case Studies From Winnipeg and Kenora, Canada by Alan Diduck (University of Winnipeg) and Ted McLachlan (University of Winnipeg)
  • Ecological Inventories of Urban Green Space in Residential Areas in Malmö (Sweden) by Christine Haaland (SLU-Alnarp)
  • Relational Values, Assessing Place-Based Values of Nature, and the Quantification of Experiences by Sanna Stålhammar (SLU-Alnarp)
  • Machinic Sensing: Place in a Smart Forest by Max Ritts (University of Cambridge)
  • Environmental Justice and Sense of Place: A Sense of Place for Whom? by Rebecca Rutt (University of Copenhagen)

In addition, students also participated in practical workshops on soundwalks (led by Gunnar Cerwén, SLU-Alnarp) and The Work That Reconnects (led by Gwyneth Jones). Many students indicated that the combination of lectures, breakout discussions, and practical workshops were the course’s greatest strength. Further, students appreciated the opportunity to interact with other researchers who share “similar goals and aspirations” and wrote that discussions with other students were the most valuable course takeaway.

Given the success of the course, SLU hope to organize a follow-up session in 2022!

About the Author

Kayleigh Kavanagh is currently completing a MSc in Environmental Change and Global Sustainability at the University of Helsinki. Kayleigh also works as a Research Assistant on the CO-CARBON project, where she collects youth perspectives on carbon-smart urban green infrastructure.

“Changing Senses of Place: Navigating Global Challenges” Book Launch

How do we navigate the contested forces of stability and change in a world shaped by multiple interconnected global challenges? For the authors and editors of Changing Senses of Place: Navigating Global Challenges, an essential step is revisiting the concept of sense of place.

You are cordially invited to the book launch where you will hear from the editors of the book who will address the vital question of how to navigate the contested forces of stability and change in a world shaped by multiple interconnected global challenges. They will make the case that the concept  of sense of place needs to be revisited, given that places and our experiences of place are changing. For example, through climate and ecological regime shifts, refugee crises, and post-national territorial claims.

The launch will take place September 15th, 2021 from 17:00-18:30 EET. The launch is hosted by the University of Helsinki’s Think Corner and can be joined by following this link.

 The book launch will be an opportunity to learn about the latest advances in senses of place scholarship, and how to design and manage for senses of place in the face of global challenges that are rapidly changing the world we live in. There will also be time for audience questions and academic discussion on critical aspects underpinning a transit towards more complex and plural experiences of sense of place.

To purchase the book, go to: https://www.cambridge.org/9781108477260

Book Editors

Christopher M. Raymond
Faculty of Biological and Environmental Science, Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry,
and Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science, University of Helsinki, Finland

Lynne C. Manzo
Department of Landscape Architecture, College of Built Environments, University of
Washington, USA

Daniel R. Williams
Rocky Mountain Research Station, United States Department of Agriculture Forest
Service, USA

Andrés Di Masso
Research Group in Interaction and Social Change, Faculty of Psychology, University
of Barcelona, Spain

Timo von Wirth
Dutch Research Institute for Transitions, School of Social and Behavioural Sciences,
Erasmus University Rotterdam, the Netherlands

The Dasgupta Review: new economics for biodiversity?

Andra Horcea-Milcu

The Dasgupta review published on the 2nd of February 2021 adds to similar efforts of the Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB, 2010) or the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA, 2005) to understand and make visible the value of nature using an economic rationale. The full review (ca. 600 pages) and its abridged version (ca. 100 pages) can be accessed here. Interestingly, it is followed on the 12th of July by the first draft of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, which outlines targets for action from now to 2030.

The Dasgupta review recognizes the current biodiversity crisis emphasizing that the achievement of prosperity comes at the expense of nature. Being akin to the Nicholas Stern review on the economics of climate change (2006), the review is aligning the urgency of halting the biodiversity crisis to that of limiting global warming. It draws clear links between the economy and biodiversity, showing the need to shift from business as usual to reverse ecosystem degradation. Consequently, the review urges to rethink the role of nature in the economic system and proposes three ways forward to an arguably wellbeing economy: 1) to ensure humanity’s demands on nature do not exceed supply; 2) to change how economic success is measured (going beyond GDP); and 3) to transform institutions in the financial and educational field.

The core message of the Dasgupta review seems to be that the current economic models, driven by the pursuit of growth by any means necessary, are failing and are thus in urgent need of transformative change. The landmark review calls to redesign economic models to (inherently) value nature and makes first steps towards contesting the paradigm and intent of the status quo in the economic system, that of continuous growth.

Although the intrinsic value of nature is acknowledged, relational values are conspicuously missing from the Dasgupta review. By narrowly considering nature mostly as an asset that humans are collectively failing to sustainably manage for their own interest, the review does not challenge the supremacy of the “economic” over the “social” and over “nature”. Likewise, the review is exclusively employing the language of economics with terms such as “externality”, “pricing”, “natural capital” prevailing. Profiling economics as the only solution to the environmental degradation may misleadingly spur reactions in the range of immediate investments in biodiversity conservation, measures erroneously deemed to be sufficient.

“If restoration of a wetland is investment, then so is conservation: Investment can mean simply waiting.”

By providing solely an economic rationale for conserving biodiversity, the review is omitting the myriad other ways is which nature is valuable for people. Consequently, the process of valuation that informs, as well as the power relations that influence decision-making remain outside the scope of the analysis. However, increasing evidence (e.g. here or here) points towards the transformative potential of valuation beyond a technical endeavor, indicating that plural valuation methods and processes, while acknowledging their challenges, can be part of an intervention toolbox of government agencies.

The collection of perspectives on this review is extensive, with numerous social media responses, going beyond what could be summarized within the limits of a blog entry. In academia, primarily depending on scholars’ research background (but not limited to this), perspectives tend to span extreme viewpoints; from seeing the review as an endeavor to not engage with in order to not reinforce the same imbalances that caused nature’s crisis in the first place, toward seeing it as a missed opportunity, and finally toward seeing it as an ‘ally’ in making the case for biodiversity. More resources, such as a review of the review, other reflections in academic journals, or a video where Partha Dasgupta introduces the review, are available.

References

Martín-López, B. Plural valuation of nature matters for environmental sustainability and justice (2020). Plural valuation of nature matters for environmental sustainability and justice | Royal Society

Pascual, U., Adams, W.M., Díaz, S. et al. Biodiversity and the challenge of pluralism. Nat Sustain (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-021-00694-7

Nature 573, 463-464 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-019-02882-0

About the author

Andra-Ioana Horcea-Milcu worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the Helsinki Institute for Sustainability Science (HELSUS) and within the human-nature transformations group from February 2019 to August 2020. During this time, she focused on the relationship between values and knowledge in landscape management and its implications for managing plurality in collaborative settings. Now she inquiries about the potential role of values as leverage points for sustainability transformation at the Babeș-Bolyai University in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. Andra is a lead author of the IPBES Values assessment. You can follow Andra on ResearchGate, Twitter

What do co-production of knowledge and transdisciplinarity mean?

Katri Mäk­inen-Ros­tedt 

Transdisciplinary research is strongly promoted by many funding bodies and science-policy interfaces such as the EU Horizon 2020 projects, the Nordic Council, the Academy of Finland Strategic Research Council, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), and Future Earth. In a few words, transdisciplinarity means integrating disciplinary boundaries and including non-academic stakeholders in research processes. The ways and the timing of stakeholder inclusion, or engagement, in research projects vary. Co-production of knowledge is often used as one method of engagement between academics, different disciplines and/or non-academics in transdisciplinary research projects.

Not all collaborative co-production of knowledge projects are transdisciplinary, though. In addition, these two concepts are sometimes used interchangeably, which adds to the confusion. Both transdisciplinarity and co-production of knowledge as modes for collaborative research aim to break the traditional, linear relationship between the knowledge producers (researchers) and knowledge users (”non-academics” like practitioners, society at large, and decision-makers) so as to better align knowledge and action and to support a more engaging research culture in general. In the field of natural resources management, both transdisciplinary research and co-production of knowledge are often utilized because they are assumed to have the potential to link research and societal impacts more effectively than conventional research modes. Forming common goals, co-learning throughout the process, and adding understanding among a plurality of actors are considered to strengthen the link between knowledge and action and create more comprehensive knowledge of complex problems. Transdisciplinarity and co-production of knowledge are thought to help transform the management and governance of natural resources in a more sustainable direction.

As a political scientist, I am interested in finding out how co-production of knowledge defines the knowledge that is ultimately used in decision-making and who is involved in these co-production processes. During my visit to the Human-Nature Transformations Research Group in spring 2021 I worked on two different articles. One is a collaborative literature review on different ”co-concepts” (co-design, co-production of knowledge, co-creation, co-learning, and co-management). The other is an analysis of longitudinal data collected among Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) experts’ values and understandings during their involvement in the IPBES Methodological Assessment regarding the Diverse Conceptualization of the Multiple Values of Nature and its Benefits, including Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (hereafter the Values Assessment). Even though the two projects are different, a common denominator is discerning co-production of knowledge as a collaborative mode in transdisciplinary research projects.

Just like transdisciplinary research, co-production is also a popular concept both for theorizing usable knowledge and for practicing engagement in transdisciplinary natural resource management projects. During our literature review project we noticed, however, that despite its popularity, or maybe because of it, co-production of knowledge has multiple definitions, expectations, and interpretations in the literature, and at times was even left undefined or used as a mere ”buzzword”.

Most commonly the definitions of co-production are anchored to

  1. the unique and process-like nature of the co-production act, where knowledge is not the only relevant outcome (other outcomes might be, for example, collaborative learning) and
  2. the engagement of diverse actors, including those outside academia.

In my review I was able to pinpoint finer nuances in the concept definitions. I categorized four definition variants for co-production of knowledge definitions used in natural resource management literature, depending on their different scopes of (transformative) ambition, the role of non-academics, and the intended use of the knowledge co-created. These variants were: i) Outcome-Oriented, ii) Practical & Pragmatic, iii) Empowering and iv) Transformative (explained in detail in Table 1).

Table 1. Variants of co-productions of knowledge. (Table from Hakkarainen, V., Mäkinen-Rostedt, K., Horcea-Milcu, A., D’Amato, D., Jämsä, J. and K. Soini, 2021. Transdisciplinary research in natural resources management: towards an integrative and transformative use of co-concepts. Manuscript submitted for publication in Sustainable Development.)

Variants 1) Outcome-oriented 2) Practical & pragmatic 3) Empowering 4) Transformative
Promises Better understanding of data and natural resource monitoring. Rationale is to increase the relevance, scope, and usability of science, hence building adaptive capacity. Creating partnerships that lead to better environmental management. Better understanding and democratic management of natural systems by developing synergies across knowledge systems.

 

Role of non-academics Informants Stakeholders Partners Co-researchers (often indigenous and local people)
What kind of co-production? From knowledge transfer to sharing. Actors are valued more as implementers of research outcomes (not because of their knowledge). Co-production as skill-dependent activity that prevents bias and adds co-ownership (of knowledge). Everybody involved as equal partners and co-producers of knowledge. More bound in certain time and scope than transformative (4.) Appreciating different knowledge systems and embracing epistemological differences. Linking co-production with political (human rights, indigenous claims etc.).

Understanding the differences between these views and the meanings they create for collaborative work is essential for delivering the goals of the collaboration. As Table 1 presents, these different views and meanings also influence how the collaboration is actually acted out in practice: what is the timing, the level of methodology and above all, the level of knowledge integration. These results from the conceptual review are aligned with the analysis of IPBES experts’ values and understandings during the Values Assessment. In the first research project using one of the datasets collected during this three year series of surveys among IPBES experts found that underlying assumptions about valid knowledge and how it is created differ among experts and even within disciplines (Hakkarainen et al. 2020). Epistemological and ontological assumptions might have implications for the knowledge that is created in the assessment processes. Now, we are trying to determine whether experts’ definitions and assumptions have changed during the IPBES process and if so, what in this inter- and partly transdisciplinary process has caused the change. It is interesting to see how intensively co-production of knowledge is enabling learning together, understanding each other’s viewpoints, and building personal capacity and skills for inter- and transdisciplinary research.

Conscious design, facilitation, and practice are essential in transdisciplinary and co-productive processes. Understanding the plurality of viewpoints that ultimately represent the values we hold ­related to knowledge, who creates knowledge, and where knowledge is used influences the deliverables of transdisciplinary projects (Table 1). Ultimately, plurality of viewpoints is connected to the decisions on which types of knowledges are taken into account in decision-making and in society at large. We need to enhance conscious considerations of the roles of epistemological, conceptual, and value pluralism in creating tensions among academics – not just between academics and other actors. For this reason, transdisciplinary projects aiming to create knowledge together should dedicate more time to discussion, making values and assumptions explicit, and figuring out different viewpoints and disagreements between participants. These kind of reflections and learning exercises should be carried out throughout the project to ensure the project’s goals are in line with the context, norms, values, resources, and capacities.

References and more information:

For more on co-production of knowledge see, e.g.:

Miller, C.A., Wyborn, C., 2018. Co-production in global sustainability: Histories and theories. Environmental Science & Policy. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envsci.2018.01.016

Norström, A.V., Cvitanovic, C., Löf, M.F., West, S., Wyborn, C., Balvanera, P., Spierenburg, M.J., Putten, I. van, Österblom, H., 2020. Principles for knowledge co-production in sustainability research. Nature Sustainability 3, 182–190. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-019-0448-2

For more on IPBES as an inter- and transdisciplinary space see, e.g.:

Borie, M., Mahony, M., Obermeister, N. and M. Hulme, 2021. Knowing like a global ecpert organization: Comparative insights from the IPCC and IPBES. Global Environmental Change, 68 (May 2021). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2021.102261

Hakkarainen, V., Anderson, C. B., Eriksson, M., van Riper, C. J., Horcea-Milcu, A., and Raymond, C. M., 2020. Grounding IPBES experts’ views on the multiple values of nature in epistemology, knowledge and collaborative science. Environmental Science and Policy, 105 (November 2019), 11–18. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envsci.2019.12.003

This writing and Table 1 were based on the joint article of Hakkarainen, V., Mäkinen-Rostedt, K., Horcea-Milcu, A., D’Amato, D., Jämsä, J. & K, Soini, 2021. Transdisciplinary research in natural resources management: towards an integrative and transformative use of co-concepts. Manuscript submitted for publication in Sustainable Development.

About the author

In spring 2021 Katri Mäk­inen-Ros­tedt spent four months in the Human-Nature Transformations Group as a Senior Project Manager. She worked, e.g. with IBPES-related research project on expert’s understandings on multiple values of nature and supporting the group with project planning activities. She is also a PhD Candidate at Tampere University. Her PhD project concerns the use and construction of expert knowledge in global environmental governance. Her current interests include social network analysis and various knowledge creation practices (such as co-production of knowledge) used in different international and regional science-policy interfaces. You can follow Katri on Twitter or ResearchGate.

Creating a sustainable city: time, prag­mat­ism and per­sist­ence

Professor Christopher Raymond
Cities want to become more sustainable, but bringing that ambition to life can be quite the challenge. Academics have to work together with urban planners to help realise sustainability transformations. To find out more go to:

https://www2.helsinki.fi/en/news/sustainability-news/creating-a-sustainable-city-time-pragmatism-and-persistence

About the author

Christopher is a Professor in the Ecosystems and Environment Research Programme and an Interdisciplinary Scientist who creates new policy and management options for engaging diverse actors in the design and implementation of nature-based solutions. He is globally recognised for my expertise related to the development and application of: conceptual approaches for assessing human-nature relationships; knowledge co-creation processes, and; analytical methods in the social valuation of land use and ecosystem services under global change. You can follow Christopher on Twitter, ResearchGate, and Google Scholar.

Finding feasible actions towards urban transformations

Professor Christopher Raymond

In this new paper in Nature Urban Sustainability, scholars from Utrecht University, University of Eastern Finland, Trinity College Dublin and University of Helsinki argue that an ‘inside’ view of transformations (focused on judgment in practice) is needed to complement existing ‘outside’ views (focused on assessment) if the goal is to find feasible actions toward urban sustainability transformations .  We propose a transformation pathways as both directed and stochastic, and emergent from an unfolding series of ‘fuzzy action moments’. Principles for bridging urban science and planning are discussed.

For more information, see the following video highlights:

And for the full paper see: Patterson, J., Soininen, N., Collier, M. et al. Finding feasible action towards urban transformations. npj Urban Sustain 1, 28 (2021). Full text link

About the author

Christopher is a Professor in the Ecosystems and Environment Research Programme and an Interdisciplinary Scientist who creates new policy and management options for engaging diverse actors in the design and implementation of nature-based solutions. He is globally recognised for my expertise related to the development and application of: conceptual approaches for assessing human-nature relationships; knowledge co-creation processes, and; analytical methods in the social valuation of land use and ecosystem services under global change. You can follow Christopher on Twitter, ResearchGate, and Google Scholar.

How to promote the rapid scaling of urban biodiversity stewardship programs

Professor Christopher Raymond

This new paper by Dr Laura Mumaw from RMIT in Melbourne and Prof. Christopher Raymond explores the factors that promote or inhibit the proliferation of wildlife gardening. They studied the Gardens for Wildlife Victoria network in Australia, which supports citizen-agency co-development of municipal wildlife gardening programs.  Over the past 3 years, it has expanded from one program to 39 initiatives in various developmental stages in 49% of the local government areas in the state of Victoria, Australia. Six interlinked factors influenced the rapid scaling of the program: empowerment of actors; a civil-agency co-design and delivery model; conservation framing; links to and between landscapes and communities; resources – particularly time; and the network’s role in promoting innovation and shared learning. For more information see: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvman.2021.112745

About the author

Christopher is a Professor in the Ecosystems and Environment Research Programme and an Interdisciplinary Scientist who creates new policy and management options for engaging diverse actors in the design and implementation of nature-based solutions. He is globally recognised for my expertise related to the development and application of: conceptual approaches for assessing human-nature relationships; knowledge co-creation processes, and; analytical methods in the social valuation of land use and ecosystem services under global change. You can follow Christopher on Twitter, ResearchGate, and Google Scholar.

Carbon-smartness: A new conceptual approach for pursuing green space benefits for the climate, biodiversity, and human well-being

Image

Jussi Lampinen, PhD

Urban green spaces – hotspots of carbon storage, biodiversity and well-being benefits? Photograph © Oriol García Antúnez.

Urban green spaces are central to human well-being. Parks, playgrounds, remnant forests and grasslands are platforms of aesthetic, restorative and social experiences and provide the backdrop for many human-nature relationships in cities. However, it has long been recognized that green spaces also take part in the dynamics of carbon capture and storage in urban areas. Urban vegetation, whether planted or spontaneous, captures carbon dioxide from the air and, in time, either releases it back to the air or helps accumulate it to the soil. This capture and potential storage of carbon links urban green spaces to studies on mitigating the consequences of climate change in urban areas.

Indeed, much interest has already been given to, e.g. estimating the amount of carbon captured or “stored” in urban vegetation. On the contrary, the social acceptance and perceptions of carbon storage in urban green spaces have seldom been studied. Consequently, we do not know how urban residents perceive the role of their local green spaces in carbon capture, or how their attitudes vary towards managing green spaces for increased carbon capture. Likewise, we have only a limited understanding of how different residents perceive decisions aiming to increase the potential of carbon capture and storage in green spaces.

Without inclusive and just approaches to green space planning and design we run the risk of creating green spaces that are efficient in carbon capture but enjoy little support from local communities. The key to avoiding this and pinpointing sustainable, long-term policies for advancing the capture and storage of carbon in urban green spaces is understanding what makes green spaces efficient in carbon capture and storage and simultaneously respecting other needs and desires associated with green spaces. Equally important is to implement these policies in ways that respect the needs and desires of not only the majority of urban residents, but also minorities and those less represented in decision-making.

Quite the complex mess, right? Research at the CO-CARBON project, a Strategic Research Council (SRC)-funded consortium combining several universities and countries, aims to untangle this complex issue. The project revolves around the concept of carbon-smart green infrastructure, and Work Package 3 of the project focuses especially on the social understanding and acceptance of “carbon-smartness” as a feature of green infrastructure. Carbon-smartness here refers to features or qualities of green spaces that advance carbon capture and storage but also provide co-benefits to ecosystems and human wellbeing. Already this spring, surveys concerning the understanding and valuation of carbon-smartness are under way in Helsinki. For a peek at what is perceived as carbon-smart, have a look at the picture below:

Examples of green spaces perceived by residents to be personally important (pink) or carbon-smart (blue) in a city district in Helsinki, Finland. Aerial image © GoogleSatellite.

Pink dots represent green spaces local residents in a specific area in Helsinki consider as personally important, while blue dots represent those that the residents consider carbon-smart. There is still much to analyze, but one thing is already clear: carbon-smartness is something residents value in different ways, with both positive and negative connotations, and something that they are able to identify in their local neighborhoods. Personally, I cannot wait to dive into the survey responses properly – this is research at its most satisfying!

More information about the CO-CARBON project may be found here: https://cocarbon.fi/en/

More information regarding carbon capture and storage in urban green spaces, the environmental justice aspects of green space design may be found, e.g. in these articles:

  • Ariluoma M et al. (2021) Carbon sequestration and storage potential of urban green in residential yards: A case study from Helsinki. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening 57: 126939
  • Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority (2021) Report on the carbon storages and sinks in the Helsinki Metropolitan Region. Final report. (Selvitys pääkaupunkiseudun hiilinieluista ja varastoista. Loppuraportti). https://julkaisu.hsy.fi/selvitys-paakaupunkiseudun-hiilinieluista-ja–varastoista.pdf
  • Wolch JR et al. (2014) Urban green space, public health, and environmental justice: The challenge of making cities ‘just green enough’. Landscape and Urban Planning 125: 234-244.
  • Strohbach MW & Haase D (2012) Above-ground carbon storage by urban trees in Leipzig, Germany: Analysis of patterns in a European city. Landscape and Urban Planning 104: 95-104.

About the author

Jussi defended his PhD-thesis in ecology at the University of Turku in 2020. His main research interests focus on seeking sustainable solutions to protecting biodiversity and mitigating climate-change within a social-ecological system -framework. Jussi joined the HNT research group in 2021. His current position as a post-doctoral researcher in the CO-CARBON -project concerns the perceptions and attitudes of urban residents towards climate-friendly urban green infrastructure and the fairness of decision-making concerning them.  You can follow Jussi on Google Scholar.

ENVISION – Sierra de Guadarrama National Park site meeting

Professor Christopher Raymond

ENVISION is a 3-year Biodiversa project funded under the Horizon 2020 ERA-NET COFUND scheme, with additional support from the Belmont Forum.  It seeks to create  more inclusive approaches to protected area management that enhance biodiversity conservation and human well-being.  This week we held our Sierra de Guadarrama National Park site meeting via Zoom given the COVID-19 situation.  We learnt about how the various ENVISION tools could support protected area management, and how to better align our new tools and processes with applied outcomes.

About the author

Christopher is a Professor in the Ecosystems and Environment Research Programme and an Interdisciplinary Scientist who creates new policy and management options for engaging diverse actors in the design and implementation of nature-based solutions. He is globally recognised for my expertise related to the development and application of: conceptual approaches for assessing human-nature relationships; knowledge co-creation processes, and; analytical methods in the social valuation of land use and ecosystem services under global change. You can follow Christopher on Twitter, ResearchGate, and Google Scholar.