New publication – Cascades of green: a review of ecosystem-based adaptation in urban areas

greenbannerThis publication presents a quantitative review of Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA) in urban areas based on a wide examination of the available peer-reviewed literature and, based on this, proposes an integrated framework for urban EbA and specifies three challenges for future research.

The paper is the result of an interdisciplinary research and teaching project that connects forces from LUCSUS and the Faculty of Sustainability, Centre for Methods and the FuturES initiative at Leuphana University, Lueneburg, Germany. The project included teachers and students from both universities and aimed at the joint creation of this quantitative review of urban EbA. The students jointly carried out the literature review and wrote the paper under the supervision of senior researchers from the two universities. The participants from LUCSUS were the LUMES students Theodor Aalders, Dóra Ádám, Alexander Hoffman, Aude Matthey-Doret, Lucian Negrut, Lukas von Schuckmann and Sara Törnros, PhD student Ebba Brink, and Associate Professor Dr Christine Wamsler.

While the use of ecosystem services to protect cities from dangerous climate change is rapidly gaining attention in research and practice, the EbA concept is not yet commonly used in the urban context. Important literature reviews on EbA have been published in the past years (e.g. Pramova et al. 2012, Doswald et al. 2014, and Sierra-Correa and Cantera Kintz 2015); however, they have not specially targeted literature with an urban focus, or their scope has been limited to certain kinds of ecosystems (e.g. mangrove coasts and forests). Such reviews are further made difficult by the fragmented documentation of EbA projects on the ground and the inconsistent wording that is used for referring to (urban) EbA activities.

This paper attempts to add to the strength and consistency of the urban EbA field by presenting a conceptual and analytical framework based on theory from Ecosystem Services, Climate Change Adaptation and Sustainability Science and suggesting terminology for the different components of EbA (including its practices, the “hardware” and “software” of ecosystems, its benefits for risk reduction, and the related decision-making). This framework was used to systematically review scientific articles available in the databases Scopus and ISI Web of Knowledge. The review identified 110 relevant articles from widely different research fields, each focusing on adaptation and/or risk reduction using ecosystems in one or several cities, in total covering 112 unique cities worldwide.

The results confirm the view of urban EbA as a fragmented, but rapidly growing research area. They call for critical research into which groups benefit from EbA projects in relation to the social processes that put people at risk from climate change. They further show the need for more future-oriented EbA research, including of how mainstream practices are being transformed in cities. Three challenges for future research are hereby formulated: Integrating Knowledge, Integrating People, and Integrating Futures.

Full reference and link:

Brink, E., Aalders, T., Ádám, D., Feller, R., Henselek, Y., Hoffmann, A., Ibe, K., Matthey-Doret, A., Meyer, M., Negrut, N.L., Rau, A.-L., Riewerts, B., von Schuckmann, L., Törnros, S., von Wehrden, H., Abson, D.J., Wamsler, C., 2016. Cascades of green: A review of ecosystem-based adaptation in urban areas. Global Environmental Change 36, 111–123.

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