Discussing the relational paradigm: A review of Prof. Dr. Berta Martín-López inaugural lecture


On Wednesday, the 16th November, Prof. Dr. Berta Martín-López held her inaugural lecture at Leuphana University. The welcoming words by Prof. Dr. Simone Abels, vice president of the graduate school, scientific qualification and teacher education, succinctly summarized Martín-López’ contribution to the SESI and Leuphana University by quoting sincere accounts of her colleagues about her competent, but always caring, kind and joyful approach to science – and their accuracy was proven by Martín-López’ following lecture about her work once again.

Inspired by West et al. (2020), Berta Martín-López introduced the ways by which place-based social-ecological systems research has considered relational paradigms and why these relational paradigms are relevant for global sustainability agendas. If you want to have a look at Martín-López’ lecture, check out her presentation slides at the end of the blog post.

The follow-up discussion of the lecture was initiated by Prof. Dr. Joern Fischer: He recognized…

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A river of emotion: Exploring the combination of sense of place theory and the ecosystem service concept


Nile, Yangtze or Rhine – rivers have always had a significant role in human history. River landscapes are complex social-ecological systems, serving as hotspots for biodiversity and certain cultural ecosystem services (CES). Nowadays, river landscapes face changes both impacting biodiversity as well as human lives. People perceive these changes differently – but there are hardly any assessments dealing with people’s emotional connections to river landscapes. Gottwald et al. (2022) propose a combination of senses of place theory and ecosystem services concept to combat this research gap. Senses of place (SOP) are the meanings and attachments people ascribe to places. Place attachments reflect the emotional connections to a place which can be evaluated based on the intensity (low to strong) or dimension (place identity and dependence). Place meanings provide the reasons for these connections. A spatial assessment of SOP has proven difficult, but a relational value approach as applied with CES…

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Invitation: Inaugural lecture by Prof. Dr. Berta Martín-López


Today, we cordially invite you to the inaugural lecture by Prof. Dr. Berta Martín-Lopéz! She will look at the “Relational paradigms in place-based social-ecological research”.

For all our local readers, friends & colleagues, feel free to join us at the Leuphana University in UC 40.501. The inaugural lecture will be held in a brown-bag lunch format with a half-hour lecture followed by a discussion as a joint lunch break with an open end. Drinks and sandwiches will be provided by the Faculty of Sustainability. If you can’t attend in person, join us in Zoom, we’re looking forward to seeing you!

For more information visit the Leuphana website here!

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Defining values in valuation – the IPBES assessment on diverse values of nature


The state of our planet says a lot about humankind – amongst other things, how we value our environment. The biodiversity crisis is just one outcome of our past decisions of valuing nature, and the Sustainable Development Goals are one of the more ambitious attempts to re-evaluate and change our choices to more sustainable ones.
In October 2022, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) published its “Assessment Report on Diverse Values and Valuation of Nature” after the approval of its 139 member states in July 2022. The report answers the call of decision-makers to balance different approaches in economic, social, and environmental dimensions to valuing nature and nature’s contributions to people. While economic and political decisions often prioritized instrumental values of nature, the report reveals that supporting more diverse values and integrating Indigenous and local knowledge with scientific knowledge have much more just and sustainable outcomes…

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How can we achieve successful transdisciplinary research? It depends on the context


Transdisciplinary Research (TDR) stands at the core of sustainability sciences: The approach of researchers and local actors co-producing knowledge should ideally tackle our society’s most urgent issues and facilitate sustainable transformation. But as usual, that is easier said than done, as the process is much more complicated in real life: While TDR approaches have been used both in the global North and South, Southern scholars recently criticize the ideal TDR approach as too rigid to facilitate engagement with dynamic contextual conditions. In their new paper, Schneider et al. (2022) examine context-sensitivity as part of TDR conceptualization. They investigate TDR experiences in six case studies with different contexts in the global South. The case studies are located in Asia (Myanmar and Laos), Africa (Kenya and Madagascar), and Latin America (Bolivia and Brazil).
To illustrate how successful TDR can be implemented, Schneider et al. use four TDR process elements that were identified…

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Everyone has a “map” to tell? Translating stories of participatory scenario narratives into maps of spatially explicit information


In research, stories are often created using scenario planning to understand future land use and land cover (LULC) changes. With scenario narratives, decision-makers can proactively consider uncertainties when choosing between different policy options. Many global scenarios need downscaling to the local level to make an assessment of potential futures possible for particular landscapes. While this approach ensures high-resolution LULC, it lacks context regarding local circumstances. On the other hand, scenarios developed on a local scale lack spatially explicit, quantitative information while providing opportunities for stakeholders to engage in decision-making processes. As few studies out there tackle these limitations by translating qualitative narrative scenarios at the landscape level into quantitative LULC maps, Duguma et al. (2022) propose a new, five-step approach.

A landscape in southwestern Ethiopia. Photo credit: Girma Shumi.

1. Development of the narrative scenarios
2. Current land cover mapping
3. Translation of narrative into qualitative spatially explicit rules

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Working with uncertainties: The future of integrating agriculture and biodiversity in the Muttama Creek Catchment Area, Australia.


The landscape of the Muttama Creek Catchment area (photo credit: Tamara Schaal)

As land-use change and agricultural intensification are key drivers of today’s biodiversity crisis, farmers are increasingly asked to display how they protect the natural environment on their farms, for example by consumers or financiers. There is also an ongoing discussion in academic circles about the best solution to protecting biodiversity in agriculture. The future of agricultural landscapes cannot be predicted with certainty, as farming systems are complex and multiple factors can have sudden or long-term influences. The Muttama Creek Catchment area (MCCA) is in many respects a typical agricultural landscape in south-eastern Australia: a mosaic of wheat and canola fields, eucalypts, paddocks, and flocks of sheep or cattle. However, agricultural developments in the past not only led to increases in productivity and output but also to growing pressures on the landscape such as soil loss, salinity or acidity…

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Learning to turn tables – Operationalizing the leverage points perspective for empirical research


Besides many efforts to turn the tables on our planet’s path to more sustainability, the deep transformation needed in social-ecological systems so far is still missing. As mostly short-term solutions have been implemented, underlying drivers of unsustainable trajectories stay undetected. Recently, a leverage points perspective (LPP) has come more into focus as a possible approach to tackle deep transformation by combining it with other system approaches. Leverage points are known as places of intervention in complex social-ecological systems that enable change. They are separated into fundamental/deep leverage points like the design and intent of a system with more power to change, or superficial/shallow leverage points like parameters and feedbacks with little capability of system change. This distinction permits to assess the potential impact an intervention can have on a system’s condition.
In their new paper, Riechers et al. (2022) develop a process for operationalizing the leverage points perspective in empirical…

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With flying colors: New study assesses how different land-use types relate to butterfly diversity


The very hungry caterpillar needs food and shelter – and depending on its life-history traits, its requirements can be either decidedly specific or just as generic as the children’s book illustrates: A new study by Wurz et al. (2022) draws off this vast diversity and uses butterflies as a model taxon to assess effects of land-use change on biodiversity in Madagascar. Butterflies demonstrate a complex life cycle, often with host plant specialization during the larval stages, and may respond differently to habitat changes. The higher their habitat specialization, the more likely they are to face extinction when confronted with land-use changes. In Madagascar, landscapes are highly fragmented due to forest areas being turned into agricultural land. Here, agroforestry is advocated as a profitable and biodiversity-friendly land-use choice, allowing possible habitats for a variety of butterfly species.

Wurz et al. assess butterfly assemblages in woody land-use types (forest fragments, forest-derived vanilla…

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Fresh fodder for future findings: Mapping plural values of grasslands and their ecosystem services


So far, ecosystem service research in grasslands has mainly focused on provisioning services and their economic values; however, calls for plural valuation have become more prominent in recent times. In fact, the inclusion of instrumental, relational and intrinsic values in an assessment of ecosystem services can reveal further reasons by which people express the importance of nature and their ecosystem services. In their paper, Schmitt et al. (2022) analyze the spatial distribution of these values in grasslands.

While instrumental values reflect direct and indirect benefits people can obtain from ecosystem services, intrinsic values represent the ethical rights of nature. In this study, the authors chose to examine ‘subjective’ intrinsic value, which accounts for the idea that humans can express regard for nature regardless of any potential human interest. Moreover, they explored relational values that represent the manifold relationship humans have with nature or human relations fostered by nature. To account…

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