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Adaptive resilience of and through urban ecosystem services: a transdisciplinary approach to sustainability in Barcelona

Claudia De Luca, Department of Architecture, Alma Mater Studiorum - Universitŗ di Bologna
Johannes Langemeyer, Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (ICTA), Universitat AutÚnoma de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain; Humboldt Universitšt zu Berlin, Institute of Geography, Berlin, Germany
Simeon Vaňo, Department of Ecology and Environmental Sciences, Constantine the Philosopher University in Nitra, Nitra, Slovakia; Global Change Research Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Brno, Czech Republic
Francesc Barů, Department of Geography, Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), Brussels, Belgium; Department of Sociology, Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), Brussels, Belgium; Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (ICTA), Universitat AutÚnoma de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain
Erik Andersson, Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden; North-West University, Unit for Environmental Sciences and Management, Potchefstroom, South Africa

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-12535-260438

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Abstract

Ecosystem services (ES) from urban green and blue infrastructure (GBI) provide cities and their citizens with benefits necessary to cope with present and future sustainability challenges. Long-term comprehensive urban greening strategies, policies, and plans are thus central to the development of sustainable, liveable, and resilient cities. However, urban greening strategies are increasingly tailored to provide short-term benefits, overlooking the dynamic character of cities, which face both changes in the capacity of GBI to provide benefits (e.g., in the face of climate change) as well dynamic needs and preferences for benefits over time as a result of changing demographic compositions. Starting with a literature review on GBI-relevant policies for the city of Barcelona, we: (1) investigated the presence of resilience thinking in the city's GBI-relevant policies through the application of the urban ecosystem services resilience assessment matrix; (2) investigated resilience thinking in the city's policies through the co-development of scenario narratives of possible futures and their implications for ES; and (3) applied the narratives through a participatory approach to enhance stakeholder thinking on adaptive policies based on possible shifts in ES provision and needs. Application of the matrix identified two main gaps to current GBI-relevant policies related to two main aspects of resilience: recognition and assessment of possible future disturbances and changes, and low understanding of social and structural diversity. Through the co-development of four future scenario narratives (aging and shrinking population, enhanced tourism, gender inequalities, and global warming), stakeholders identified the most susceptible ES in the city of Barcelona. Workshop participants indicated mental well-being, regulation of microclimate, social cohesion, air purification, physical recreation, runoff control, and soil permeability as ES with the widest capacity–demand mismatch. The results elicited discussion around GBI and ES resilience, addressing the need for intersectoral policy integration (including housing, education, and mobility) and for fostering a wider understanding of the role of institutions in providing for a resilient urban future. Through the use of scenario narratives, and highlighting the potential of co-creation, the proposed approach enhances critical thought around ES resilience among key players in the city. The study thereby supports the development of a comprehensive resilience strategy for Barcelona and indicates pathways for how other cities can change their current urban trajectory towards sustained ES flows.

Key words

ecosystem services; green and blue infrastructure; participatory process; resilience principles; scenario narratives; urban greening policies

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