Special Issue "Nature-Based Solutions for Restoration of Ecosystems and Sustainable Urban Development"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Environmental Sustainability and Applications".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 November 2019).

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A printed edition of this Special Issue is available here.

Special Issue Editor

Prof. Dr. Thomas Panagopoulos
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Guest Editor
Faculty of Science and Technology, Research Centre for Tourism, Sustainability and Well-being, University of Algarve, 8005-139 Faro, Portugal
Interests: nature-based solutions; landscape restoration; sustainable development; climate change adaptation; green infrastructure; environmental justice; carbon neutral cities
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Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Urbanization presents one of the most urgent challenges of the 21st century. The global population will reach almost 10 billion by 2050 and according to revised projections of the United Nations the proportion that will live in urban areas is expected to increase from 54 to 70%. Meanwhile, unsustainable, non-resilient urbanization patterns have caused the degradation of ecosystems and their services. The need for urban growth due to the growing population has to include environmentally sustainable policies in order to address the problem in accordance with a healthy environment. This needs a paradigm shift towards restorative sustainability for new and existing urban areas, and multidisciplinary knowledge leading to solutions that celebrate the richness of design creativity while enhancing users’ experience, comfort, health, wellbeing and satisfaction, and being in harmony with urban and natural ecosystems, reconnecting users to nature.

In this Special Issue, we invite papers focusing on, but not limited to, the following topics:

Nature-based solutions and the benefits of re-naturing cities; biophilic design; sustainable urban development; landscape ecological urbanism; regeneration of declining post-industrial cities; climate change adaptation and mitigation.

We encourage contributions that present successful cases of designing healthier, greener, resilient, regenerated cities, with better living conditions for all, reduced crime and security costs, improved air and water quality, enhanced human health and wellbeing, reduced health costs, improved mobility conditions, and increased social cohesion.

We encourage contributions that demonstrate successful cases of increasing city resilience to climate change and disaster risk reduction thanks to the implementation of green infrastructure (e.g., reduced flood risks, mitigated heat stress and water-related challenges).

Prof. Dr. Thomas Panagopoulos
Guest Editor

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Keywords

  • Nature-based solutions
  • Disaster risk reduction
  • Re-naturing cities
  • Biophilic design
  • Landscape reclamation
  • Urban regeneration
  • Urban planning
  • Post-industrial redevelopment

Published Papers (10 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle
Urban Forestry in Brazilian Amazonia
Sustainability 2020, 12(8), 3235; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12083235 - 16 Apr 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 651
Abstract
Urban forests provide multiple benefits in improving people’s lives and can be an important tool for achieving the goal of carbon neutral cities. In this study, we analyzed the diversity of plant species from urban forests in cities in the Brazilian Amazonia, based [...] Read more.
Urban forests provide multiple benefits in improving people’s lives and can be an important tool for achieving the goal of carbon neutral cities. In this study, we analyzed the diversity of plant species from urban forests in cities in the Brazilian Amazonia, based on data from scientific articles, through a systematic literature review. Our analysis revealed that 530 taxa, of which 479 were identified at the species level and 51 at the genus level, covering 38,882 individuals were distributed in 29 cities. The three most frequent species were Ficus benjamina, Mangifera indica, and Licania tomentosa. Exotic species were more frequent than native. The three most frequent species had almost 42% of the inventoried individuals. The choice of species has been made mainly by the local population, without monitoring by the public authorities. Recommendations for sustainable management of urban forests in Amazonia include investing in training of management bodies, periodic inventories, and awareness actions about the benefits of urban green infrastructure and on the advantages of native species. Policies for the sustainable management of urban green areas are necessary. The municipal governments must continuously monitor indicators of urban ecosystem services and provide financial resources for maintaining and increasing those area rates per person. Full article
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Open AccessEditor’s ChoiceArticle
Social Factors Key to Landscape-Scale Coastal Restoration: Lessons Learned from Three U.S. Case Studies
Sustainability 2020, 12(3), 869; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12030869 - 23 Jan 2020
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 1803
Abstract
In the United States, extensive investments have been made to restore the ecological function and services of coastal marine habitats. Despite a growing body of science supporting coastal restoration, few studies have addressed the suite of societally enabling conditions that helped facilitate successful [...] Read more.
In the United States, extensive investments have been made to restore the ecological function and services of coastal marine habitats. Despite a growing body of science supporting coastal restoration, few studies have addressed the suite of societally enabling conditions that helped facilitate successful restoration and recovery efforts that occurred at meaningful ecological (i.e., ecosystem) scales, and where restoration efforts were sustained for longer (i.e., several years to decades) periods. Here, we examined three case studies involving large-scale and long-term restoration efforts including the seagrass restoration effort in Tampa Bay, Florida, the oyster restoration effort in the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland and Virginia, and the tidal marsh restoration effort in San Francisco Bay, California. The ecological systems and the specifics of the ecological restoration were not the focus of our study. Rather, we focused on the underlying social and political contexts of each case study and found common themes of the factors of restoration which appear to be important for maintaining support for large-scale restoration efforts. Four critical elements for sustaining public and/or political support for large-scale restoration include: (1) resources should be invested in building public support prior to significant investments into ecological restoration; (2) building political support provides a level of significance to the recovery planning efforts and creates motivation to set and achieve meaningful recovery goals; (3) recovery plans need to be science-based with clear, measurable goals that resonate with the public; and (4) the accountability of progress toward reaching goals needs to be communicated frequently and in a way that the general public comprehends. These conclusions may help other communities move away from repetitive, single, and seemingly unconnected restoration projects towards more large-scale, bigger impact, and coordinated restoration efforts. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Modeling Nature-Based and Cultural Recreation Preferences in Mediterranean Regions as Opportunities for Smart Tourism and Diversification
Sustainability 2020, 12(1), 433; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12010433 - 06 Jan 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1144
Abstract
The tourism and recreational offer of Mediterranean destinations involves, essentially, the promotion of mass tourism, based on the appeal of the sun and beach, and the quality of its coastal assets. Alongside the impacts of climate change, poor tourism diversification represents a threat [...] Read more.
The tourism and recreational offer of Mediterranean destinations involves, essentially, the promotion of mass tourism, based on the appeal of the sun and beach, and the quality of its coastal assets. Alongside the impacts of climate change, poor tourism diversification represents a threat to the resilience of the territory. Thus, heterogenization of noncoastal tourism products presents an opportunity to strengthen regional resilience to present and future challenges, hence the need to study, comparatively, the complementary preferences of tourists and residents of these regions in order to unveil their willingness to diversify their recreational experience, not only in coastal spaces, but also—and especially—in interior territories with low urban density. Consequently, this strategic option may represent a way of strengthening resilience and sustainability through diversification. In this context, a survey was conducted among 400 beach tourists and 400 residents of a case study—namely, three municipalities of the Algarve region in southern Portugal—in order to analyze their degree of preference for activities besides the sun and beach, such as nature-based and cultural tourism activities, and to probe the enhancement potential of each tourism and recreational activity through the various landscape units considered by experts, stakeholders, and tour operators. The respective degree of preference and enhancement potential were indexed to the area of each landscape unit. Subsequently, respecting the existing recreational structure and constraints, a suitability map for territory enhancement and the implementation of smart tourism practices for each tourism activity and landscape unit is presented. Results show a significant preference for noncoastal outdoor recreational activities. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Ecological Environment Vulnerability and Driving Force of Yangtze River Urban Agglomeration
Sustainability 2019, 11(23), 6623; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11236623 - 23 Nov 2019
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 649
Abstract
The vulnerability of ecological environment threatens social and economic development. Recent studies failed to reveal the driving mechanism behind it, and there is little analysis on the spatial clustering characteristics of the vulnerability of urban agglomerations. Therefore, this article estimates ecological environment vulnerability [...] Read more.
The vulnerability of ecological environment threatens social and economic development. Recent studies failed to reveal the driving mechanism behind it, and there is little analysis on the spatial clustering characteristics of the vulnerability of urban agglomerations. Therefore, this article estimates ecological environment vulnerability in 2005, 2011, and 2017, determines Moran Index (MI) with spatial autocorrelation model, analyzes the spatial-temporal difference characteristics of ecological environment vulnerability of Yangtze River Urban Agglomeration and the spatial aggregation effect, and discusses its driving factors. The study results estimate that the overall vulnerability index of the Yangtze River Urban Agglomeration is in a mild fragile state. However, most fragile and slightly fragile cities are developing in the direction of moderate to severe vulnerability. The spatial agglomeration effect of the ecological environment vulnerability of the Yangtze River Urban Agglomeration is not obvious, and the effect of mutual ecological environment influence among cities is not obvious. Moreover, the driving factors of ecological environment vulnerability of Yangtze River city group changed from natural factors to social economic factors and then to policy factors. It is necessary to develop an ecological economy, coordinate the spatial agglomeration of urban agglomerations, and make balance the internal differences of urban agglomerations. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Planning Nature-Based Solutions for Urban Flood Reduction and Thermal Comfort Enhancement
Sustainability 2019, 11(22), 6361; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11226361 - 12 Nov 2019
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 1583
Abstract
As a consequence of climate change and urbanization, many cities will have to deal with more flooding and extreme heat stress. This paper presents a framework to maximize the effectiveness of Nature-Based Solutions (NBS) for flood risk reduction and thermal comfort enhancement. The [...] Read more.
As a consequence of climate change and urbanization, many cities will have to deal with more flooding and extreme heat stress. This paper presents a framework to maximize the effectiveness of Nature-Based Solutions (NBS) for flood risk reduction and thermal comfort enhancement. The framework involves an assessment of hazards with the use of models and field measurements. It also detects suitable implementation sites for NBS and quantifies their effectiveness for thermal comfort enhancement and flood risk reduction. The framework was applied in a densely urbanized study area, for which different small-scale urban NBS and their potential locations for implementation were assessed. The overall results show that the most effective performance in terms of flood mitigation and thermal comfort enhancement is likely achieved by applying a range of different measures at different locations. Therefore, the work presented here shows the potential of the framework to achieve an effective combination of measures and their locations, which was demonstrated on the case of the Sukhumvit area in Bangkok (Thailand). This can be particularly suitable for assessing and planning flood mitigation measures in combination with heat stress reduction. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
The (Re)Insurance Industry’s Roles in the Integration of Nature-Based Solutions for Prevention in Disaster Risk Reduction—Insights from a European Survey
Sustainability 2019, 11(22), 6212; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11226212 - 06 Nov 2019
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1713
Abstract
Nature-based solutions (NBS) are increasingly being considered as an option to reduce societies’ vulnerability to natural hazards, creating co-benefits while protecting ecosystem services in a context of changing climate patterns with more frequent and extreme weather events. The reinsurance and insurance industries are [...] Read more.
Nature-based solutions (NBS) are increasingly being considered as an option to reduce societies’ vulnerability to natural hazards, creating co-benefits while protecting ecosystem services in a context of changing climate patterns with more frequent and extreme weather events. The reinsurance and insurance industries are increasingly cited as sectors that can play a role to help manage risks, by improving disaster risk reduction (DRR) and loss prevention. This paper investigates how the (re)insurance industry could support the transition from a paradigm focused on ex-post responses to ex-ante risk reduction measures including NBS, in line with the Sendai Framework. This paper presents the results of a series of 61 interviews undertaken with the (re)insurance sector and related actors under the EU H2020 Nature Insurance Value Assessment and Demonstration (NAIAD) project. Methods based on a Grounded Theory approach indicate how this sector can play different roles in loss prevention, including ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction (eco-DRR). Results illustrate how the (re)insurance industry, under these roles, is gradually innovating by having a better understanding of hazards and mitigation. The findings of the study contribute to wider discussions such as the possibility of new arrangements like natural insurance schemes and evidence-based assessment of avoided damage costs from green protective measures, in Europe and beyond. Full article
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Open AccessEditor’s ChoiceArticle
Model-Based Selection of Cost-Effective Low Impact Development Strategies to Control Water Balance
Sustainability 2019, 11(8), 2440; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11082440 - 25 Apr 2019
Cited by 8 | Viewed by 1578
Abstract
Urbanization induces an increase of runoff volume and decrease of evapotranspiration and groundwater recharge. Low impact development (LID) strategies aim to mitigate these adverse impacts. Hydrologic simulation is a reasonable option to assess the LID performance with respect to the water balance and [...] Read more.
Urbanization induces an increase of runoff volume and decrease of evapotranspiration and groundwater recharge. Low impact development (LID) strategies aim to mitigate these adverse impacts. Hydrologic simulation is a reasonable option to assess the LID performance with respect to the water balance and is applicable to planning purposes. Current LID design approaches are based on design storm events and focus on the runoff volume and peak, neglecting evapotranspiration and groundwater recharge. This contribution presents a model-based design approach for the selection of cost-effective LID strategies. The method is based on monitored precipitation time series and considers the complete water balance and life-cycle-costs, as well as the demand for land. The efficiency of LID strategies (ELID) is introduced as an evaluation measure which also accounts for emphasizing different goals. The results show that there exist several pareto-optimal LID strategies providing a reasonable basis for decision-making. Additionally, the application of LID treatment trains emerges as an option of high potential. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
The Edge Effect on Plant Diversity and Soil Properties in Abandoned Fields Targeted for Ecological Restoration
Sustainability 2019, 11(1), 140; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11010140 - 28 Dec 2018
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1368
Abstract
Changes in biotic and abiotic factors may create opportunities for biodiversity recovery in abandoned agricultural fields. This study examined the natural/old field edge effect on plant diversity and soil properties at Lapalala Wilderness in Limpopo Province, South Africa. Detailed vegetation surveys and soil [...] Read more.
Changes in biotic and abiotic factors may create opportunities for biodiversity recovery in abandoned agricultural fields. This study examined the natural/old field edge effect on plant diversity and soil properties at Lapalala Wilderness in Limpopo Province, South Africa. Detailed vegetation surveys and soil measurements were conducted in three old fields that share a natural/old field road edge boundary. On each site, three transects, each with four plots (10 × 10 m), located 10 m into the natural area and 10, 30 and 50 m into the old field from the edge, were setup. Plant diversity and composition measurements were conducted on each plot. Soil moisture and total N, C and P were measured at the center of each plot. Results indicate that abundance of some woody species was significantly (P < 0.001) higher close to the edge than far into the old fields. However, this was not the case for herbs and grasses which did not increase with edge proximity. All measured soil properties were significantly (P < 0.001) higher close to the edge than far into the old fields. The study concludes that both vegetation and soil properties are influenced by proximity to the edge. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Design Optimization of Productive Façades: Integrating Photovoltaic and Farming Systems at the Tropical Technologies Laboratory
Sustainability 2018, 10(10), 3762; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10103762 - 18 Oct 2018
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 2274
Abstract
Singapore’s high dependence on imported energy and food resources, and the lack of available land requires an efficient use of the built environment in order to increase energy and food autonomy. This paper proposes the concept of a productive façade (PF) system that [...] Read more.
Singapore’s high dependence on imported energy and food resources, and the lack of available land requires an efficient use of the built environment in order to increase energy and food autonomy. This paper proposes the concept of a productive façade (PF) system that integrates photovoltaic (PV) modules as shading devices as well as farming planters. It also outlines the design optimization process for eight PF prototypes comprising two categories of PF systems: Window façade and balcony façade, for four orientations. Five criteria functions describing the potential energy and food production as well as indoor visual and thermal performance were assessed by a parametric modelling tool. Optimal PF prototypes were subsequently obtained through the VIKOR optimization method, which selects the optimal design variants by compromising between the five criteria functions. East and West-facing façades require greater solar protection, and most façades require high-tilt angles on their shading PV panels. The optimal arrangement for vegetable planters involves two planters located relatively low with regard to the railing or window sill. Finally, the optimal façade designs were adjusted according to the availability of resources and the conditions and context of the Tropical Technologies Laboratory (T2 Lab) in Singapore where they are installed. Full article
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Review

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Open AccessEditor’s ChoiceReview
Stakeholders’ Engagement on Nature-Based Solutions: A Systematic Literature Review
Sustainability 2020, 12(2), 640; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12020640 - 15 Jan 2020
Cited by 10 | Viewed by 1589
Abstract
Cities are facing a broad range of social and environmental challenges due to the current pressure of global urbanization. Nature-based solutions aim to utilize green infrastructure to improve people’s health and wellbeing. The design of urban environments must embrace the individual ideals of [...] Read more.
Cities are facing a broad range of social and environmental challenges due to the current pressure of global urbanization. Nature-based solutions aim to utilize green infrastructure to improve people’s health and wellbeing. The design of urban environments must embrace the individual ideals of citizens and stakeholders which can only be achieved if effective methods of communication, involvement, and feedback are ensured. Such a procedure creates trust during its implementation, helping to take ownership and stewardship of processes and sites. This systematic literature review explores the current state of the art regarding citizen and stakeholder participation in nature-based solutions (NBS). The search on the SCOPUS database identified 142 papers in total that met the inclusion criteria. The participation analysis was separated in two areas: (a) analysis of perceptions, preferences, and perspectives of citizens and stakeholders, and (b) analysis of the participation process, including challenges and opportunities, motivations, methods and frameworks, and collaborative governance. The results revealed that stakeholder and citizen participation or collaboration in nature-based solutions is increasingly recognized as promising; however, research in several related domains is still lacking. Full article
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