Landscape simplification in Lower Saxony: How does it affect human-nature connectedness and relational values?

SCIENCE FOR SUSTAINABILITY

Landscape simplification, both globally and locally, has vast impacts on biodiversity. Increasing literature on biodiversity impacts has thrown into the spotlight how biodiversity and ecosystems are affected by landscape simplification, especially through the loss of material and immaterial ecosystem services. Less research has been done on how these changes affect how humans value and use these landscapes, therefore Riechers et al. (2021) analysed the relationship between human-nature connectedness, relational values, and landscape simplification in Lower Saxony.

The authors empirically researched the effects of landscape simplification on different dimensions of human-nature connectedness, such as material, experiential, emotional, cognitive, and philosophical connectedness. To also include the human-human connections mediated by nature, the authors included findings on how human-nature connectedness is linked to relational values.

The authors found that especially rapid landscape simplification could negatively affect human-nature connectedness and relational values, especially social relations, social cohesion and cultural identity. Declining human-nature connectedness could…

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How does fire affect butterfly and plant diversity in South African shrublands?

SCIENCE FOR SUSTAINABILITY

In order to effectively manage endangered natural habitats, natural disturbances must be considered, especially when these natural habitats are biodiversity hotspots and key for species survival. Therefore, understanding the effects of natural disturbances such as fire regimes in the South African renosterveld shrubland is important for maintaining habitat quality. Topp et al. (2021) therefore investigated the ways in which fire and landscape context can affect both plant and butterfly diversity within this endangered renosterveld, a biodiversity hotspot in Swartland, Western Cape (see Figure 2).

Figure 2. (a) Koringberg, one of the larger renosterveld study fragments in the Swartland region, with both recently burned (3years prior to study, light green young growth, left hand side of photograph) and unburned (more than 30years since last fire, dark green woody vegetation, in foreground and on right hand side of photograph) patches. (b) The lower east‐facing slope of Contreberg which has not burned…

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Systems Change not Climate Change… but how?

A post by Julia Leventon on leverage points — see the special issue for more information!

SustainableCZ

Last week I published an editorial, attached to a special issue in Sustainability Science on the topic of Leverage Points for sustainability transformations (available mainly as open access here). In it, we raise nine questions for working with leverage points and systems change. For those already engaged with systems thinking, and the topic of leverage points, this special issue has been (I quote) “really helpful”, “perspective changing”, and “inspirational”.

But what if you aren’t already thinking in leverage points? I asked some (non-academic) family and friends. The special issue is (I quote) “thought provoking” but also “abstract”. A fair comment. Except… as researchers on topics of sustainability, we rather hope to produce work that helps to solve sustainability problems. So here is how I think our editorial contributes to solving problems.

Systems are everywhere!

When we hear about systems outside of the academic ivory towers, It is typically…

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Ecosystem Service Mapping and Species-Based Ecosystem Services. Are we ignoring a crucial aspect of ecosystem services and biodiversity?

SCIENCE FOR SUSTAINABILITY

Ecosystem functions and services are paramount to survival, and comprehensive spatial assessments thereof are required in order to promote conservation and ecosystem management. To quantify ecosystem service supply, species-based providers or biophysical providers are used by researchers, although biophysical providers are most often investigated in large-scale, multi-service assessments through high quality mapping and remote sensing. Species-based ecosystem service providers are not represented as often, although these contribute greatly human wellbeing. To fill this knowledge gap, Ceausu et al. (2021) calculated the distributions to understand individual species’ relative importance to the supply of ecosystem services.

Fig. 1.Weighted provider richness for species-based services at 50×50km resolution. The color categories display quantiles (Ceausu et al. 2021).

Fig. 2.Spatial distribution of biophysical services at 50×50km resolution. The color categories display quantiles (Ceausu et al. 2021).

Ceausu et al. (2021) calculated the indicator for species provider richness weighted by functional efficiency for 9 species-based ecosystem…

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Confronting Grief and Finding Hope in the Future of Conservation.

SCIENCE FOR SUSTAINABILITY

Biodiversity conservation can be a difficult topic to study when catastrophic projections and bad news is ever-present, combined with the intense urgency to act. Soulé (1985) referred to it as a ‘crisis discipline’, while terms such as ‘eco-anxiety’ and ‘ecological grief’ are gaining popularity and relevance. Fischer and Riechers (2021) therefore try to understand how conservation professionals can change their inner worlds and perspectives, in order to confront feelings of grief, and channel these to more empowering and hopeful visions of the future.

Fischer and Riechers (2021) were inspired by and reflected on the works of Michael Soulé, and presented this paper to incite conversations and focus on themes relating to compassion, interrelatedness, impermanence and normativity in conservation.

The authors focussed on centering compassion in order to reduce scapegoating and blame games. Often, our own research comes from a place of life-affirmation, and the authors highlighted that by understanding differences…

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How effective are current interventions into marine pollution as mentioned in literature? A leverage points perspective.

SCIENCE FOR SUSTAINABILITY

Marine pollution is a broad and multifaceted issue that is being increasingly understood and recognised, however unsustainable pathways continue to threaten the global biosphere. Therefore, Riechers et al. (2021) conducted literature-based research to identify the drivers of rising marine pollution, major research foci and pollutants, and the characteristics of suggested interventions. The authors attempted to understand how knowledge can best be used to effectively address marine pollution.

Coastal Pollution: Image by Sabine Wiedlich

The authors applied the leverage points concept of Meadows (1999) to their literature review in order to identify the type, spatial distribution and depth of the interventions discussed. They classified the scientific studies and interventions according to this leverage points perspective, in order to determine the ability of the interventions to create lasting change. Riechers et al. (2021) hypothesised that sustainability interventions would likely be focussed on highly tangible and short-term goals, rather than targeting transformative change…

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Mammal Diversity and Rural Housing Developments: Studying Impacts of Human Population Growth in SW Ethiopia.

SCIENCE FOR SUSTAINABILITY

The impacts of human population growth, consumption and expansion of cities and rural dwellings affect biodiversity worldwide. However, often the biodiversity and rural impacts of local population growth have only been considered in the Global North. In the context that half of projected population growth by 2050 is expected to occur in Sub-Saharan Africa, and in considering that much of this growth will be in rural settings, the effects on rural ecosystems are a topic area that requires more research (UN, 2019). Therefore, Rodrigues et al. (2021) explored these impacts in biodiversity-rich areas undergoing rural population growth in southwestern Ethiopia.

The mantled guereza, also known as the Eastern black-and-white colobus, as photographed by a remotely-triggered camera trap (Rodrigues et al. 2021).

The chosen study area covered 3800km2 of moist evergreen forest and coffee production areas in the Jimma zone of Oromia, which the authors chose due to the…

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Wild Edible Plants: A Woman’s or a Man’s World? Gendered Differences in WEP Knowledge and Gathering in Spain.

SCIENCE FOR SUSTAINABILITY

Within local knowledge systems research, gender is a relatively unexplored topic. Despite women’s significant roles in economic and domestic spheres, their connection and knowledge regarding social-ecological systems requires more attention. Acosta-Naranjo et al. (2021) have therefore conducted long-term research in three regions of Spain in order to understand differences in knowledge, consumption and gathering of wild edible plants (WEP) by men and women, and the causes or context behind this. This approach is led by previous research in the area proposing that wild edible plant location determined whether it was harvested by men or women, thus the relationship between gendered relationships to space and place, and WEPs was researched.

In order to collect this data, Acosta-Naranjo et al. (2021) selected three study areas, within which qualitative and quantitative data collection was to take place. The regions of Doñana, Sierra Morena Extremeña, and Sierra Norte de Madrid were chosen, due…

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Enhancing Sustainability by Reconnecting with Nature: Leverage Points associated with Human-Nature Connectedness

SCIENCE FOR SUSTAINABILITY

Multiple threats face the sustainability and survival of social-ecological systems. In recent years, a growing focus on the potential of different actions in producing lasting change has emerged. Meadows’ (1999) paper concerning leverage points has been a catalyst for the growth of this field. However, the application of this perspective to real-world scenarios and cultural landscapes has been slow. Riechers et al. (2021) discuss the ability of human-nature connections to produce changes in sustainability through a leverage points perspective (see Box 1). The authors analyse the ways in which different aspects of human-nature connectedness portray leverage points, at which interventions could be key in reversing unsustainable cultural landscape changes in five different communities throughout Europe.

Box 1. Description of terms used regarding the leverage points perspective. These descriptions are partly direct quotes from the sources named below, partly defined or edited by the authors (Riechers et al. 2021:2).

Riechers et…

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Boundary Object, Bridging Concept, or Metaphor? Resilience in Recent Sustainability Research

SCIENCE FOR SUSTAINABILITY

The concept of resilience has become increasingly popular over the past years – especially in sustainability science. As of late 2020, there were almost 13,000 peer-reviewed publications in the Scopus scientific database that mentioned both resilience and sustainability. However, the definitions of resilience vary greatly. In their recent paper, Nüchter et al. (2021) investigate how the concept of resilience has been used in peer-reviewed empirical sustainability science articles that were published from 2014 to 2018. More specifically, the authors seek to provide an overview of the current research landscape of empirical resilience research in sustainability science and to contribute to the discussion on the potential of resilience as a boundary object. To this end, they combine an inductive text analysis with a multivariate statistical full-text analysis of 112 journal articles.

The qualitative content analysis revealed that a social-ecological resilience understanding was most popular in sustainability science literature: while one third…

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