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Special Issue "Citizen Science for Sustainable Cities: Investigating Nature Based Solutions"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Sustainability, Biodiversity and Conservation".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (16 August 2021) | Viewed by 14232

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Dr. Steven Loiselle
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Earthwatch Institute (Europe), Mayfield House, 256 Banbury Road, Summertown, Oxford, UK; Dipartimento di Biotecnologie, Chimica e Farmacia, University of Siena, CSGI, Via Aldo Moro 2, 53100 Siena, Italy
Interests: environmental spectroscopy; optical analysis and modelling of aquatic ecosystems; study of impacts of solar radiation; controlling factors of productivity in aquatic ecosystems; global change impacts on wetland and lake functioning; analysis of organic matter in aquatic ecosystems
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals
Dr. Macarena L. Cárdenas
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Earthwatch Institute (Europe), Mayfield House, 256 Banbury Road, Summertown, Oxford, UK
Interests: citizen science; nature-based solutions; urban sustainability; climate change; forest biodiversity; long-term human vegetation relationships
Dr. Claire Narraway
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Earthwatch Institute (Europe), Mayfield House, 256 Banbury Road, Summertown, Oxford, UK
Interests: citizen science; biodiversity; evolution of sociality; dynamics of conflict and cooperation; group decision making and multilevel selection; urban planning; built environment
Prof. Dr. Shyam R. Asolekar
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Environmental Science & Engineering Department (ESED), Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IITB), Powai, Mumbai India
Interests: air pollution control technologies; hazardous waste treatment and disposal; hazardous, municipal, and biomedical waste management; reactor modelling and technology development for biological and physicochemical treatment of hazardous waste leachates and special industrial wastewaters; environmental policy and preventive environmental management; application of remotely sensed data for monitoring of environmental systems; environmental policy and preventive environmental management; eco-industrial networking; eco-centric and low-cost wastewater treatment treatment of leachates and special industrial wastewaters; recycle and reuse of effluents
Dr. Jonathan D. Paul
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Earth Sciences, Royal Holloway, University of London, London, UK
Interests: sustainable groundwater resources; landscape development; natural hazard risk reduction; surface–groundwater interactions; low-cost hydrological sensor network development
Dr. Jérôme Ngao
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
French National Institute for Agriculture, Food, and Environment (INRAE),Paris, France
Interests: Tree Ecophysiology; Agroforestry; Urban Trees; Carbon Cycling; Functional Ecology

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Cities are major contributors to global change and are highly susceptible to their consequences. As urbanization continues, there have been significant increases in water, soil, and air pollution, exacerbated urban heat island effect and more frequent flooding, with impacts on society, economic prosperity, infrastructure, and the environment.

Nature-based solutions (NBS), such as green and blue infrastructure, provide sustainable options that can increase the resiliency of cities and mitigate global change. While the potential benefits of NBSs have been described, efforts to estimate these benefits remain inconsistent and rarely conducted across large spatial and temporal extensions.

Citizen science (CS) has proven to be a cost-effective method to characterize changes of local environments. Based on the collaborative effort between scientists, agencies, and the general public, CS can fill the information gap, restricting sustainable solutions to environmental problems. CS provides a further benefit of improving participation and understanding local populations in managing their local environment.

This Special Issue brings together studies where CS provide an important contribution to the study of NBS. The editors encourage submissions that explore the range of NBS on urban and peri-urban environments, with the participation of CS. Examples of applications of CS in urban planning, NBS design and monitoring are welcomed.

Prof. Dr. Steven Loiselle
Dr. Macarena L. Cárdenas
Dr. Claire Narraway
Prof. Dr. Shyam R. Asolekar
Dr. Jonathan D. Paul
Dr. Jérôme Ngao
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2000 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • citizen science
  • nature-based solutions (NBS)
  • urbanization
  • green infrastructure
  • blue infrastructure
  • climate change
  • urbanization
  • sustainable development goals

Published Papers (10 papers)

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Research

Article
Implications of Urban Land Management on the Cooling Properties of Urban Trees: Citizen Science and Laboratory Analysis
Sustainability 2021, 13(24), 13656; https://doi.org/10.3390/su132413656 - 10 Dec 2021
Viewed by 1001
Abstract
Trees participate in mitigating the urban heat island phenomenon thanks to their transpiration and shading. This cooling potential is highly dependent on leaf area. Nevertheless, leaf traits potentially vary across different land management practices in urban settings, thereby challenging the models used to [...] Read more.
Trees participate in mitigating the urban heat island phenomenon thanks to their transpiration and shading. This cooling potential is highly dependent on leaf area. Nevertheless, leaf traits potentially vary across different land management practices in urban settings, thereby challenging the models used to estimate thermal budgets. The present study aims to investigate the variability of leaf area traits of linden (Tilia spp.) urban trees, and their effect on simulated tree transpiration. Reconstruction of the leaf area was undertaken at the tree scale at three different urban land management sites from three cities: London and Birmingham (UK) and Chantilly (France). The reconstruction combined allometric measurements at shoot and leaf scales, and a tree-scale 3D digitization with laboratory analysis using field data collected by citizen scientists. The management practices had a significant impact on leaf area, and on tree allometric relationships, which were propagated through the reconstruction process. Relative differences between the management practices ranged between 12% and 48% according to the city where the variable was considered (e.g., leaf area index, total leaf area, or tree transpiration). Trees in managed sites (i.e., individualized leaf crowns, frequent leaf litter removal, and standard thinning/pruning operations) develop a higher leaf area, thus promoting cooling potential. This study shows that the variability of leaf traits, and their responses to different land management, can be studied by comprehensive data collection through citizen science and lab-based modelling. It also highlights the importance of appropriate, well-designed urban planning, where landscaping using urban trees can play an even better role in climate proofing cities. Full article
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Article
Rapid Assessment and Long-Term Monitoring of Green Stormwater Infrastructure with Citizen Scientists
Sustainability 2021, 13(22), 12520; https://doi.org/10.3390/su132212520 - 12 Nov 2021
Viewed by 719
Abstract
Green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) has emerged as a promising decentralized management approach to urban stormwater challenges. A lack of data about GSI performance interferes with widespread adoption of GSI. A citizen science program that benefits researchers, lay scientists, and municipalities offers a way [...] Read more.
Green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) has emerged as a promising decentralized management approach to urban stormwater challenges. A lack of data about GSI performance interferes with widespread adoption of GSI. A citizen science program that benefits researchers, lay scientists, and municipalities offers a way to provide these lacking data. We have developed an open-source, transferable green infrastructure rapid assessment (GIRA) protocol for studying the performance of GSI with citizen scientists. This protocol has been tested in six North American cities (New York City, Toronto, Vancouver, Chicago, San Francisco, and Buffalo). In this research we define the performance of GSI in varying geographic, climatic, and maintenance conditions with the intent to create technological, institutional, and management solutions to urban stormwater problems. The GIRA protocol was used by citizen scientists to assess the physical properties and capabilities of bioswales, while small, affordable Green Infrastructure Sensors Boxes (GIBoxes) were used to determine longer-term function across several rain events. Our results indicate that teams of citizen scientists can be effective for collecting and archiving widespread information on the post-installation function of GSI. The effort also showed that citizen scientists had changes in understanding of urban stormwater challenges and the role that GSI can play in solving these problems. We explore the multiple benefits to knowledge, participants, and municipal partners as a result of this research. Full article
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Article
Measuring Soil Colour to Estimate Soil Organic Carbon Using a Large-Scale Citizen Science-Based Approach
Sustainability 2021, 13(19), 11029; https://doi.org/10.3390/su131911029 - 05 Oct 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1601
Abstract
Rapid, low-cost methods for large-scale assessments of soil organic carbon (SOC) are essential for climate change mitigation. Our work explores the potential for citizen scientists to gather soil colour data as a cost-effective proxy of SOC instead of conventional lab analyses. The research [...] Read more.
Rapid, low-cost methods for large-scale assessments of soil organic carbon (SOC) are essential for climate change mitigation. Our work explores the potential for citizen scientists to gather soil colour data as a cost-effective proxy of SOC instead of conventional lab analyses. The research took place during a 2-year period using topsoil data gathered by citizen scientists and scientists from urban parks in the UK and France. We evaluated the accuracy and consistency of colour identification by comparing “observed” Munsell soil colour estimates to “measured” colour derived from reflectance spectroscopy, and calibrated colour observations to ensure data robustness. Statistical relationships between carbon content obtained by loss on ignition (LOI) and (i) observed and (ii) measured soil colour were derived for SOC prediction using three colour components: hue, lightness, and chroma. Results demonstrate that although the spectrophotometer offers higher precision, there was a correlation between observed and measured colour for both scientists (R2 = 0.42; R2 = 0.26) and citizen scientists (R2 = 0.39; R2 = 0.19) for lightness and chroma, respectively. Foremost, a slightly stronger relationship was found for predicted SOC using the spectrophotometer (R2 = 0.69), and citizen scientists produced comparable results (R2 = 0.58), highlighting the potential of a large-scale citizen-based approach for SOC monitoring. Full article
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Article
Ecosystem Services Evaluation of Nature-Based Solutions with the Help of Citizen Scientists
Sustainability 2021, 13(19), 10629; https://doi.org/10.3390/su131910629 - 24 Sep 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 991
Abstract
Ecosystem services are increasingly being considered in decision-making with respect to mitigating future climate impacts. In this respect, there is a clear need to identify how nature-based solutions (NBS) can benefit specific ecosystem services, in particular within the complex spatial and temporal dynamics [...] Read more.
Ecosystem services are increasingly being considered in decision-making with respect to mitigating future climate impacts. In this respect, there is a clear need to identify how nature-based solutions (NBS) can benefit specific ecosystem services, in particular within the complex spatial and temporal dynamics that characterize most river catchments. To capture these changes, ecosystem models require spatially explicit data that are often difficult to obtain for model development and validation. Citizen science allows for the participation of trained citizen volunteers in research or regulatory activities, resulting in increased data collection and increased participation of the general public in resource management. Despite the increasing experience in citizen science, these approaches have seldom been used in the modeling of provisioning ecosystem services. In the present study, we examined the temporal and spatial drivers in nutrient delivery in a major Italian river catchment and under different NBS scenarios. Information on climate, land use, soil and river conditions, as well as future climate scenarios, were used to explore future (2050) benefits of NBS on local and catchment scale nutrient loads and nutrient export. We estimate the benefits of a reduction in nitrogen and phosphorus export to the river and the receiving waters (Adriatic Sea) with respect to the costs associated with individual and combined NBS approaches related to river restoration and catchment reforestation. Full article
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Article
Evaluation of the Impacts of Land Use in Water Quality and the Role of Nature-Based Solutions: A Citizen Science-Based Study
Sustainability 2021, 13(19), 10519; https://doi.org/10.3390/su131910519 - 22 Sep 2021
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1507
Abstract
The present study explores the impact of different land uses on water quality in a Mexican basin and addresses key mitigation measures, with key measurements made by citizen scientists. The Amanalco-Valle de Bravo Basin reservoir is the major freshwater supply for Mexico City. [...] Read more.
The present study explores the impact of different land uses on water quality in a Mexican basin and addresses key mitigation measures, with key measurements made by citizen scientists. The Amanalco-Valle de Bravo Basin reservoir is the major freshwater supply for Mexico City. By measuring physical-chemical and bacteriological parameters in creeks over 21 months and correlating them to land use areas, it was possible to understand the impacts of different land uses (urban, forest, riparian forests, and different agricultural systems) in water quality. The results show that the concentration of E. coli, nitrates, nitrites, total phosphorus, total nitrogen, and total suspended solids were higher than the recommended reference levels, and that average oxygen saturation and alkalinity were lower than the recommended reference levels in most sites. The analysis of the Pearson correlation coefficient showed a strong relationship between water pollution and urban and agricultural land uses, specifically a higher impact of potato cultivation, due to its intensive use of agrochemicals and downhill tilling. There was a clear positive relationship between total forest area and riparian vegetation cover with improved water quality, validating their potential as nature-based solutions for the regulation of water quality. The results of the present study indicate the opportunities that better land management practices generate to ensure communities’ and water ecosystems’ health. This study also highlights the benefits of citizen science as a tool for raising awareness with regard to water quality and nature-based solutions, and as an appropriate tool for participative watershed management. Full article
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Article
Science & Technology Agenda for Blue-Green Spaces Inspired by Citizen Science: Case for Rejuvenation of Powai Lake
Sustainability 2021, 13(18), 10061; https://doi.org/10.3390/su131810061 - 08 Sep 2021
Viewed by 1568
Abstract
Urban lakes play a major role in the socio-cultural and ecological sustainability of many cities, but are often under major development and pollution pressures. Urban decision makers are faced with a challenging task of identifying the causes of their decline and building plans [...] Read more.
Urban lakes play a major role in the socio-cultural and ecological sustainability of many cities, but are often under major development and pollution pressures. Urban decision makers are faced with a challenging task of identifying the causes of their decline and building plans for their conservation or rejuvenation. Powai Lake is a perfect example of an urban water body with historic, cultural, and ecological importance to the population of Metropolitan Mumbai, with local and regional authorities, including the Urban Development Department, Government of Maharashtra, working to identify methods for rejuvenating the Lake. In this context, characterization of pollution dynamics, hotspots, and extent is fundamental to the development of management plans and appropriate technologies for the remediation and rejuvenation of Powai Lake—the long-term goal of the present study. A two-year monitoring program at eight sampling locations on the Lake’s periphery, with the engagement of citizen scientists along with environmental researchers, revealed clear seasonal and spatial dynamics that allowed for the identification of pollution drivers and the development of a three-phase rejuvenation plan. The plan represents a novel and holistic approach that recognizes Powai Lake as a complex system with multiple drivers, and aims at ecological balance and sustainable delivery of ecosystem services. Full article
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Article
Comparing Wetland Ecosystems Service Provision under Different Management Approaches: Two Cases Study of Tianfu Wetland and Nansha Wetland in China
Sustainability 2021, 13(16), 8710; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13168710 - 04 Aug 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 829
Abstract
The largest blue-green infrastructures in industrialized, urbanized and developed regions in China are often multiuse wetlands, located just outside growing urban centers. These areas have multiple development pressures while providing environmental, economic, and social benefits to the local and regional populations. Given the [...] Read more.
The largest blue-green infrastructures in industrialized, urbanized and developed regions in China are often multiuse wetlands, located just outside growing urban centers. These areas have multiple development pressures while providing environmental, economic, and social benefits to the local and regional populations. Given the limited information available about the tradeoffs in ecosystem services with respect to competing wetland uses, wetland managers and provincial decision makers face challenges in regulating the use of these important landscapes. In the present study, measurements made by citizen scientists were used to support a comparative study of water quality and wetland functions in two large multiuse wetlands, comparing areas of natural wetland vegetation, tourism-based wetland management and wetland agriculture. The study sites, the Nansha and Tianfu wetlands, are located in two of the most urbanized areas of China: the lower Yangtze River and Pearl River catchments, respectively. Our results indicated that the capacity of wetlands to mitigate water quality is closely related to the quality of the surrounding waters and hydrological conditions. Agricultural areas in both wetlands provided the lowest sediment and nutrient retention. The results show that the delivery of supporting ecosystem services is strongly influenced by the location and use of the wetland. Furthermore, we show that citizen scientist-acquired data can provide fundamental information on quantifying these ecosystem services, providing needed information to wetland park managers and provincial wetland administrators. Full article
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Communication
The Circular Benefits of Participation in Nature-Based Solutions
Sustainability 2021, 13(8), 4344; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13084344 - 14 Apr 2021
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1627
Abstract
Nature-based solutions (NbS) provide direct benefits to people who live in areas where these approaches are present. The degree of direct benefits (thermal comfort, reduced flood risk, and mental health) varies across temporal and spatial scales, and it can be modelled and quantified. [...] Read more.
Nature-based solutions (NbS) provide direct benefits to people who live in areas where these approaches are present. The degree of direct benefits (thermal comfort, reduced flood risk, and mental health) varies across temporal and spatial scales, and it can be modelled and quantified. Less clear are the indirect benefits related to opportunities to learn about the environment and its influence on personal behaviour and action. The present study, based on survey data from 1955 participants across 17 cities worldwide, addressed whether participation in NbS through two types of interactions (a passive learning experience about NbS and a more active experience based on Citizen Science) stimulates motivation and willingness to be more environmentally sustainable. Over 75% of participants improved their understanding of environmental sustainability and were highly motivated and more confident in their ability to improve sustainability in their local environment/nature. Similar percentage improvements arose from both types of activity across all cities. Those NbS that had elements of both blue and green infrastructure rated higher than those that had predominantly green NbS. Interestingly, a large percentage of the participants did not live near the NbS that were the focus of these activities. This indicated that expected spatial limitations between benefit and recipient may be overcome when dedicated programmes involve people in learning or monitoring NbS. Therefore, opportunities have arisen to expand inclusion from the immediately local to the larger community through participation and Citizen Science, with potential benefits to social cohesion and urban sustainability. Full article
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Article
The Role of Green Infrastructure in Enhancing Microclimate Conditions: A Case Study of a Low-Rise Neighborhood in Abu Dhabi
Sustainability 2021, 13(8), 4260; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13084260 - 12 Apr 2021
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 1255
Abstract
Urban heat islands are characterized by the increased temperature in urban areas compared with the rural surroundings due to human-made interventions that replace natural lands with buildings and roads. This study focuses on the assessment and utilization of using local nature-based solutions such [...] Read more.
Urban heat islands are characterized by the increased temperature in urban areas compared with the rural surroundings due to human-made interventions that replace natural lands with buildings and roads. This study focuses on the assessment and utilization of using local nature-based solutions such as trees, sensitive landscaping types and design strategies to enhance microclimate in neighborhood streets and the public realm in desert areas, taking Abu Dhabi as a case study. The research utilizes a design-based approach to propose landscaping and layouts of urban street trees in low-rise residential urban areas. In this study, two methods namely an on-site measurement using citizen science, and a numerical simulation model in the ENVI-met software are used. Site-measurements included the tree physical characteristics such as tree height, crown width (crown spread/diameter), and trunk height, and the use of technology (photography and the Fulcrum mobile application, Nikon Forestry pro Laser Rangefinder) and air temperature around trees. ENVI-met included four scenarios: 1—“no-vegetation”, 2—“grass-only”, 3—“existing conditions” and 4—“proposed landscape design”. Grass and three types of local street trees are used in the proposed scenarios including Ghaf, Poinciana, and Temple tree. In addition, a standard of 6 and 8 m spacing between each tree is applied to determine the effect of varying vegetation densities on the outdoor temperature. The combined results using citizen science and the model allowed the identification of particular urban tree species that show substantial cooling effects. This is the case of Poinciana trees, which decreased the air temperature up to 0.9 °C when spaced every six meters in pathways and open unshaded areas amongst alleys, improving the overall thermal conditions in neighborhoods of hot-arid landscapes. Full article
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Article
New Classification Method to Evaluate Pollution Levels of Sewage Contaminated Lakes
Sustainability 2021, 13(7), 3677; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13073677 - 26 Mar 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 830
Abstract
Monitoring water quality to minimize deterioration of a lake’s functionality is important, as several Indian lakes are exposed to sewage contamination. Public health laboratories, citizen scientists, and volunteers in developing nations often find it difficult to perform elaborate tests to monitor the water [...] Read more.
Monitoring water quality to minimize deterioration of a lake’s functionality is important, as several Indian lakes are exposed to sewage contamination. Public health laboratories, citizen scientists, and volunteers in developing nations often find it difficult to perform elaborate tests to monitor the water quality of freshwater systems. Developing a classification method to evaluate the pollution status of sewage-contaminated lakes using limited tests will expand environmental monitoring of freshwater systems and contribute valuable data to the regional and global repository. Four classes of lake pollution ranging from unpolluted (class 1) to mixed wastewater (class 4) were identified based on the distribution of data points in the K+ (potassium) versus COD (chemical oxygen demand) scatter chart. As pH, EC (electrical conductivity), turbidity, and DO (dissolved oxygen) are deteriorated by sewage contamination, these parameters were also incorporated in the proposed pollution classification table. Data of unpolluted and sewage polluted Indian lakes were employed to compile the limiting range of parameters in the proposed lake pollution classification. The five parameters (K+, pH, EC, DO, turbidity) required to categorize lake pollution (class 1 to 4) can be measured with equipment costing 800–1000 USD, while COD can be measured at 5 USD/sample in laboratories. Full article
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