Recent ecological studies have identified human activity as a relevant dimension of current evolutionary processes. However, most of these studies rely on socioeconomic indicators that consider the impact of activities on ecosystems but have only limited informative value on the effects of concrete patterns of action. This paper focuses on the concept of style as a tool for the study of the interface between society and nature. We exemplify our thesis with reference to changes in plant biodiversity in settlements, and start by summing up the methods and findings of our interdisciplinary research project that aimed to explain the distribution of native and alien plants. Since the findings indicate that styles of living and acting influence plant species composition, we apply the findings of our research strategy beyond the narrow focus of our study. Finally, we comment on methodological implications for the study of the societal aspects of social-ecological systems.
Jens Jetzkowitz and Jörg Schneider
Karin M. Gustafsson and Rolf Lidskog
For many countries, the IUCN Red List of threatened species is a central instrument in their work to counteract loss of biodiversity. This article analyzes the development of the Red List categories and criteria, how these categories and criteria are used in the construction of global, national, and regional red lists, and how the red lists are employed in policy work. A central finding of the article is that this mix of actors implies many different forms of boundary work. This article also finds that the Red List functions as a portable representation, that is, a context-independent instrument to represent nature. A third finding is that the Red List functions as a link between experts and policy makers. Thus, the Red List is best understood as a boundary object and hybrid practice where the credibility of scientific assessment and a specific policy is mutually strengthened.
David S. Trigger and Lesley Head
How are preferences for “native” and “introduced” species of plants and animals given expression in Australian cities? Given the nation's predominantly European cultural heritage, how do urban Australians articulate multiple desires for living environments encountered in everyday life? In examining the cases of inner city parks, backyards, and more general views about flora and fauna appropriate for the city, the paper considers a range of deeply enculturated attachments to familiar landscapes. While residents have considerable interest in the possibilities of urban ecological restoration, our interviews, ethnographic observation, and textual analysis also reveal cultural preferences for introduced species and emplaced attachments to historically modified landscapes. These preferences and attachments are linked to senses of identity developed during formative life experiences. In the relatively young post-settler society of Australia, such drivers of environmental desires can sit uneasily alongside science-driven propositions about what is good for biodiversity and ecological sustainability.
Toru Terada, Makoto Yokohari, Jay Bolthouse, and Nobuhiko Tanaka
Urban and peri-urban satoyama woodlands have become focal points of restoration throughout Japan. Prior to the abrupt shift to fossil fuels in the 1950-60s, villages coppiced these woods to produce a sustainable supply of wood fuel, a process that also sustained a dynamic woodland structure rich in biodiversity. Currently, amidst a “satoyama renaissance,” thousands of volunteer groups are restoring management to abandoned woods. Yet while volunteers are the main drivers of the satoyama renaissance, volunteer management tends to be limited in spatial extent and focused on the “parkification” of woodlands. Through a case study of four satoyama restoration scenarios we found that reintroduction of coppicing for wood fuel—“refueling”—can play a role in addressing climate change through fossil fuel substitution. We suggest that this literal refueling of satoyama restoration could, in a more metaphorical sense, help to refuel restoration efforts by strengthening both restoration practice and the authenticity of restoration experiences.
Over the past decade a shift can be noticed from ecological restoration to ecological design, where ecological design stands for a technocratic approach that courts hubris and mastery rather than humility and self-restraint. Following Eric Higgs, this shift can be seen as a “hyperactive and heedless response“ to global environmental change, especially climate change. The new technocratic approach may be best characterized as enlightened (or prudential) anthropocentrism, where nature is only allowed that degree of agency which is required to deliver the services that are essential for human well-being. It is not only questionable if we have the scientific and technical abilities to purposeful design ecosystems that will serve our needs, but also if the new approach will be sufficient to protect biodiversity in the long run.
Anna Jorgensen and Paul H. Gobster
In this paper we review and analyze the recent research literature on urban green space and human health and well-being, with an emphasis on studies that attempt to measure biodiversity and other green space concepts relevant to urban ecological restoration. We first conduct a broad scale assessment of the literature to identify typologies of urban green space and human health and well-being measures, and use a research mapping exercise to detect research priorities and gaps. We then provide a more in-depth assessment of selected studies that use diverse and innovative approaches to measuring the more ecological aspects of urban green space and we evaluate the utility of these approaches in developing urban restoration principles and practices that are responsive to both human and ecological values.
J. Donald Hughes
Henry David Thoreau remarked that he had traveled widely—in Concord, Massachusetts. An intentionally contradictory statement, it is nonetheless true if the landscape is composed of many interpenetrating biomes and cultural uses. Fields and forests, groves and gardens, towns and temples form the tesserae of a landscape mosaic embodying the interpenetration of culture and nature, and while such elements provide diversity, they can also, paradoxically, mold integrity. The integrity of nature, in the sense of the completeness of the ecosystem that is present in a place, invests that place with power and lays a claim on sentient beings. Mosaic landscapes have a higher degree of biological diversity than monocultures because they manifest ecotonality, and they are spiritual stimuli for the psyches of those who live within and travel through them. Maintaining the variety of elements within the mosaic, and preventing effacement by huge, land-altering projects where "culture" disregards nature, is a moral imperative. The arrangement of tesserae in a particular landscape mosaic must not be haphazard, but should make both cultural and natural sense, following the underlying geology, the paths of celestial events, and the places where myth and history have resonated, binding cultural meaning to the fabric of the land. Such a pattern leaves areas of varying habitats where biodiversity may flourish. In a future when humans will inhabit the Earth sustainably, the concept of the landscape mosaic may serve as an organizing principle.
A New Journal for Contemporary Environmental Challenges
Paige West, Dan Brockington, Jamon Halvaksz, and Michael Cepek
Social scientists have been writing about the relationships between people and their surroundings for as long as there has been social scientific inquiry. Fields such as anthropology, economics, history, human geography, law, political science, psychology, and sociology all have long and rich histories of contributing to and pioneering socio-environmental analysis. However, the past 20 years have seen a proliferation of scholarship in the social sciences that is focused on environmental issues. This is due, in part, to changes in our environment that have profound implications for the future of both human society and the environment. It is also due, in part, to the ways in which environmental practitioners have portrayed the causes of these changes. In the 1970s, social scientists, concerned with the ways in which the causes of environmental changes were being attributed to some peoples and not others, felt that their knowledge of social processes and social systems could shed light on these issues (see Blaikie and Brookfield 1987). They thought that the methods and theories of the social sciences could and should be brought to bear on questions about contemporary environmental changes. Climate change, the water crisis, deforestation, desertification, biodiversity loss, the energy crisis, nascent resource wars, environmental refugees, and environmental justice are just some of the many compelling challenges facing society today that were identified by these early scholars as sites in need of social scientific analysis.
Paul H. Gobster
What does ecological restoration mean in an urban context? More than half of the world’s population now lives in cities, and in response to the dynamic patterns of urbanization, a growing number of ecologists, land managers, and volunteers are focusing their efforts in and around cities to restore remnants of natural diversity (Ingram 2008). Ecological restoration is still a quite youthful field, yet many scientists and practitioners hold a relatively fixed set of criteria for what defines a successful restoration project, irrespective of where sites are located. Among the criteria commonly stated, sites should be composed of indigenous species, have a structure and diversity characteristic of currently undisturbed or historically documented “reference” sites, and be maintained through ecological processes such as fire that ensure long-term sustainability with minimal human assistance (Ruiz-Jaén and Aide 2005; SER International 2004). Application of these criteria has led to many ecologically successful restorations, but some ecologists in the field have begun to question whether the same standards can be realistically applied to sites such as those within urban areas that have been radically altered by past human activity (e.g., Martínez and López-Barerra 2008) or are being influenced by novel conditions that result in unpredictable trajectories (Choi 2007). Perhaps more significantly, it is becoming increasingly recognized that the broader viability of restoration projects, especially those in urban areas, hinges on how socially successful they are in gaining public acceptance for restoration activities and practices, building constituencies to assist with implementation and maintenance, and addressing a broader set of sustainability goals that reach beyond the protection of native biodiversity (e.g., Choi et al. 2008; Hobbs 2007; Rosenzweig 2003).
Insights from a Social Science Study of Three German Regions
There is now common understanding that ecosystems are threatened by environmental risks, including biodiversity loss, climate change, and land degradation (IPBES 2018). Furthermore, there is little doubt that humanity's unsustainable demand for