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Urbanization is a global multidimensional process paired with increasing uncertainty due to climate change, migration of people, and changes in the capacity to sustain ecosystem services. This article lays a foundation for discussing transitions in urban governance, which enable cities to navigate change, build capacity to withstand shocks, and use experimentation and innovation in face of uncertainty. Using the three concrete case cities— New Orleans, Cape Town, and Phoenix—the article analyzes thresholds and cross-scale interactions, and expands the scale at which urban resilience has been discussed by integrating the idea from geography that cities form part of “system of cities” (i.e., they cannot be seen as single entities). Based on this, the article argues that urban governance need to harness social networks of urban innovation to sustain ecosystem services, while nurturing discourses that situate the city as part of regional ecosystems. The article broadens the discussion on urban resilience while challenging resilience theory when addressing human-dominated ecosystems. Practical examples of harnessing urban innovation are presented, paired with an agenda for research and policy.
A multi-scaled model for biodiversity conservation in forests was introduced in Sweden 30 years ago, which makes it a pioneer example of an integrated ecosystem approach. Trees are set aside for biodiversity purposes at multiple scale levels varying from individual trees to areas of thousands of hectares, with landowner responsibility at the lowest level and with increasing state involvement at higher levels. Ecological theory supports the multi-scaled approach, and retention efforts at every harvest occasion stimulate landowners' interest in conservation. We argue that the model has large advantages but that in a future with intensified forestry and global warming, development based on more progressive thinking is necessary to maintain and increase biodiversity. Suggestions for the future include joint planning for several forest owners, consideration of cost-effectiveness, accepting opportunistic work models, adjusting retention levels to stand and landscape composition, introduction of temporary reserves, creation of “receiver habitats” for species escaping climate change, and protection of young forests.
Riparian forests (RF) growing along streams, rivers and lakes comprise more than 2% of the forest area in the Nordic countries (considering a 10 m wide zone from the water body). They have special ecological functions in the landscape. They receive water and nutrients from the upslope areas, are important habitats for biodiversity, have large soil carbon stores, but may emit more greenhouse gases (GHG) than the uplands. In this article, we present a review of the environmental services related to water protection, terrestrial biodiversity, carbon storage and greenhouse gas dynamics provided by RF in the Nordic countries. We discuss the benefits and trade-offs when leaving the RF as a buffer against the impacts from upland forest management, in particular the impacts of clear cutting. Forest buffers are effective in protecting water quality and aquatic life, and have positive effects on terrestrial biodiversity, particularly when broader than 40 m, whereas the effect on the greenhouse gas exchange is unclear.
This study targets plantation forestry by farm households (small holders), which is increasing globally and most rapidly in China and Vietnam. By use of an interdisciplinary approach on three study sites in Vietnam, we examined the trends in farmers' tree planting over time, the various pre-requisites for farm-based plantation forestry and its impact on rural people's livelihood strategies, socio-economic status, income and security. The findings indicated a change from subsistence to cash-based household economy, diversification of farmers' incomes and a transformation of the landscape from mainly natural forests, via deforestation and shifting cultivation, to a landscape dominated by farm-based plantations. The trend of transformation, over a period of some 30 years, towards cash crops and forestry was induced by a combination of policy, market, institutional, infrastructural and other conditions and the existence of professional farming communities, and was most rapid close to the industrial market.
Organic farming is believed to improve soil fertility by enhancing soil organic matter (SOM) contents. An important co-benefit would be the sequestration of carbon from atmospheric CO2. Such a positive effect has been suggested based on data from field experiments though many studies were not designed to address the issue of carbon sequestration. The aim of our study was to examine published data in order to identify possible flaws such as missing a proper baseline, carbon mass measurements, or lack of a clear distinction between conventional and organic farming practices, thereby attributing effects of specific practices to organic farming, which are not uniquely organic. A total of 68 data sets were analyzed from 32 peer-reviewed publications aiming to compare conventional with organic farming. The analysis revealed that after conversion, soil C content (SOC) in organic systems increased annually by 2.2% on average, whereas in conventional systems SOC did not change significantly. The majority of publications reported SOC concentrations rather than amounts thus neglecting possible changes in soil bulk density. 34 out of 68 data sets missed a true control with well-defined starting conditions. In 37 out of 50 cases, the amount of organic fertilizer in the organic system exceeded that applied in the compared conventional system, and in half of the cases crop rotations differed between systems. In the few studies where crop rotation and organic fertilization were comparable in both systems no consistent difference in SOC was found. From this data analysis, we conclude that the claim for beneficial effects of organic farming on SOC is premature and that reported advantages of organic farming for SOC are largely determined by higher and often disproportionate application of organic fertilizer compared to conventional farming.
Decision makers responsible for natural resource management often complain that science delivers fragmented information that is not useful at the scale of implementation. We offer a way of negotiating complex problems by putting forward a requisite simplicity. A requisite simplicity attempts to discard some detail, while retaining conceptual clarity and scientific rigor, and helps us move to a new position where we can benefit from new knowledge. We illustrate the above using three case studies: elephant densities and vegetation change in a national park, the use of rules of thumb to support decision making in agriculture, and the management of salt in irrigation. We identify potential requisite simplicities that can allow us to generate new understanding, lead to action and provide opportunities for structured learning.