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The thorny path toward greening: unintended consequences, trade-offs, and constraints in green and blue infrastructure planning, implementation, and management

Jakub Kronenberg, Social-Ecological Systems Analysis Lab, Faculty of Economics and Sociology, University of Lodz, Lodz, Poland
Erik Andersson, Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden; North-West University, Unit for Environmental Sciences, Potchefstroom, South Africa
David N. Barton, Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA), Oslo, Norway
Sara T Borgström, Department of Sustainable Development, Environmental Science and Engineering, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden
Johannes Langemeyer, Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (ICTA), Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain; Department of Geography, Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, Germany
Tove Björklund, Department of Sustainable Development, Environmental Science and Engineering, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden
Dagmar Haase, Department of Geography, Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, Germany; Department of Computational Landscape Ecology, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), Leipzig, Germany
Christopher Kennedy, Urban Systems Lab, The New School, New York, New York, USA
Karolina Koprowska, Social-Ecological Systems Analysis Lab, Faculty of Economics and Sociology, University of Lodz, Lodz, Poland
Edyta Łaszkiewicz, Social-Ecological Systems Analysis Lab, Faculty of Economics and Sociology, University of Lodz, Lodz, Poland
Timon McPhearson, Urban Systems Lab, The New School, New York, New York, USA; Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, Millbrook, New York, USA; Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
Erik E Stange, Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, Lillehammer, Norway
Manuel Wolff, Department of Geography, Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, Germany; Department of Computational Landscape Ecology, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), Leipzig, Germany

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-12445-260236

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Abstract

Urban green and blue space interventions may bring about unintended consequences, involving trade-offs between the different land uses, and indeed, between the needs of different urban inhabitants, land users, and owners. Such trade-offs include choices between green/blue and non-green/blue projects, between broader land sparing vs. land sharing patterns, between satisfying the needs of the different inhabitants, but also between different ways of arranging the green and blue spaces. We analyze investment and planning initiatives in six case-study cities related to green and blue infrastructure (GBI) through the lens of a predefined set of questions—an analytical framework based on the assumption that the flows of benefits from GBI to urban inhabitants and other stakeholders are mediated by three filters: infrastructures, institutions, and perceptions. The paper builds on the authors' own knowledge and experience with the analyzed case-study cities and beyond, a literature overview, a review of the relevant city documents, and interviews with key informants. The case studies indicate examples of initiatives that were intended to make GBI benefits available and accessible to urban inhabitants, in recognition of GBI as spaces with diverse functionality. Some case studies provide examples of trade-offs in trying to plan and design a green space for multiple private and public interests in densely built-up areas. The unintended consequences most typically resulted from the underappreciation of the complexity of social–ecological systems and—more specifically—the complexity of the involved infrastructures, institutions, and perceptions. The most important challenges addressed in the paper include trade-offs between the different ways of satisfying the residents' different needs related to the benefits from ecosystem services, ensuring proper recognition of the inhabitants' needs and perceptions, ecogentrification, caveats related to the formalization of informal spaces, and the need to consider temporal dynamics and cross-scale approaches that compromise different goals at different geographical scales.

Key words

environmental justice; trade-offs; unexpected outcomes; urban ecosystem services; urban green space;

Copyright © 2021 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087