Special Issue "Socio-Environmental Vulnerability Assessment for Sustainable Management"

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

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 May 2020).

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A printed edition of this Special Issue is available here.

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Szymon Szewrański
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Spatial Economy, Wrocław University of Environmental and Life Sciences, 50-375 Wrocław, Poland
Interests: spatial analysis; land use planning; sustainable development; city planning; urban sustainability; environmental impact assessment; adaptation to climate change; environmental management; environmental analysis
Special Issues and Collections in MDPI journals
Dr. Jan K. Kazak
E-Mail Website1 Website2
Guest Editor
Institute of Spatial Management, Wrocław University of Environmental and Life Sciences, Grunwaldzka 55, 50-357 Wrocław, Poland
Interests: sustainable cities and regions; adaptation to climate change; environmental impact assessment; natural resource management; resilience; urban design and planning
Special Issues and Collections in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The current century seems to be a pivotal point to set the proper trajectory of the human development paradigm. Ongoing parallel processes of urbanization, aging society, population growth, and increasing consumption interplay with threats caused by climate change, extreme weather events, and depletion of resources. As climate-related hazards impact both human and environmental elements, there is a need to explore, analyze, and understand the vulnerability of socioenvironmental systems. Therefore, adaptation to climate change as well as sustainable development require a knowledge-based approach and intelligent solutions for integrated assessment of the state of the environment and society.

This Special Issue would explore cross-disciplinary approaches, methodologies, and applications of socioenvironmental vulnerability assessment that can be incorporated into sustainable management. This Special Issue invites researchers in environment protection and development, urban planning, geography, public policy, and other disciplines and cross-disciplinary fields. Relevant topics include but are not limited to the following areas:

  • Environmental carrying capacity and ecological footprint;
  • Landscape sensitivity and cultural heritage transformation;
  • Environmental impact assessment and human impact assessment;
  • Adaptation to climate change;
  • Energy poverty and climate justice;
  • Aging society and environmental threats;
  • Sustainability risk assessment;
  • Resilience assessment and mapping;
  • Geospatial analyses.

Prof. Szymon Szewrański
Dr. Jan K. Kazak
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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Keywords

  • Socio-environmental vulnerability
  • environmental carrying capacity
  • ecological footprint
  • environmental impact assessment
  • sustainability risk assessment
  • resilience assessment

Published Papers (21 papers)

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Editorial
Socio-Environmental Vulnerability Assessment for Sustainable Management
Sustainability 2020, 12(19), 7906; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12197906 - 24 Sep 2020
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 768
Abstract
Research on complex socio-environmental systems (also known as socio-ecological systems) has a long tradition in scientific considerations [...] Full article
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Research

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Article
An Assessment of the Applicability of Sustainability Measurement Tools to Resource-Based Economies of the Commonwealth of Independent States
Sustainability 2020, 12(14), 5582; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12145582 - 10 Jul 2020
Cited by 8 | Viewed by 745
Abstract
The concept of sustainable development (SD) is aimed at ensuring public well-being for the present and future generations. Hundreds of methods have been proposed for assessing and comparing the sustainable development of countries and analyzing their contribution to the future of the world. [...] Read more.
The concept of sustainable development (SD) is aimed at ensuring public well-being for the present and future generations. Hundreds of methods have been proposed for assessing and comparing the sustainable development of countries and analyzing their contribution to the future of the world. When applied to resource-based economies (RBEs), assessment tools do not take into account the value and impact of mineral resources on SD indicators. The purpose of the study is to reveal the limitations of applying some tools by taking into consideration the specific features of RBEs. Research methods include a correlation analysis between gross national income (GNI) per capita and aggregated indices (the Sustainable Society Index (SSI), the Human Development Index (HDI), and the Environmental Performance Index (EPI)), a comparative analysis of these indices and mining companies’ performance indicators. Object Eurasian RBEs were selected, but Norway was analyzed separately from the sample. The results of the study show that correlations between GNI per capita and SD indicators are heterogeneous. There is no statistically significant correlation between GNI per capita and SSI, a strong correlation with HDI, and a weak correlation with EPI. The EPI and SSI structures do not reflect the specific features of RBEs. Full article
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Article
Sustainable Tourism Development in Protected Areas of Rivers and Water Sources: A Case Study of Jiuqu Stream in China
Sustainability 2020, 12(13), 5262; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12135262 - 29 Jun 2020
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 975
Abstract
This paper discusses the status quo of tourism and policy development regarding the Jiuqu Stream in China from different stakeholder perspectives. By combining field investigations, questionnaires, and statistical examinations of collected data, 812 samples were analyzed using multivariate analysis. The results indicate that [...] Read more.
This paper discusses the status quo of tourism and policy development regarding the Jiuqu Stream in China from different stakeholder perspectives. By combining field investigations, questionnaires, and statistical examinations of collected data, 812 samples were analyzed using multivariate analysis. The results indicate that increased visibility, employment opportunities, and real estate values in the scenic areas along the river will attract residents to return for future development, while public safety and conservation policies, featured architecture and tourism signage planning, increased cost of living, and waste and pollution will cause disincentives. Visitors will be attracted by the natural and ecological features, transportation planning, unique local culture, and events. Recreational facilities and architectural planning, merchandise lacking characteristics, tourist consumer expenditure, smoke and pollution from motor vehicles, and how it feels to interact with residents will influence the desire to visit the place. Development of an area should consider the different needs of every stakeholder in terms of recreational facilities, local infrastructure, expenditure and income, public safety and health, waste disposal, ecology and environmental conservation, tourism, and the quality of life. Full article
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Article
Risk Analysis Related to Impact of Climate Change on Water Resources and Hydropower Production in the Lusatian Neisse River Basin
Sustainability 2020, 12(12), 5060; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12125060 - 21 Jun 2020
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 945
Abstract
Water resources are one of the most important issues affected by climate change. Climate scenarios show that in the upcoming decades, further climate change can occur. It concerns especially air temperature and sunshine duration, whose prognosis indicates a significant rising trend till the [...] Read more.
Water resources are one of the most important issues affected by climate change. Climate scenarios show that in the upcoming decades, further climate change can occur. It concerns especially air temperature and sunshine duration, whose prognosis indicates a significant rising trend till the end of the century. The goal of the paper was the evaluation of water resources and hydropower production in the future, depending on climate scenarios with a consideration of risk analysis. The analysis was carried out on the basis of observation data for the Lusatian Neisse river basin (Poland) for 1971–2015 and climate projections till 2100 for the RCP2.6 and RCP8.5 (representative concentration pathways) scenarios. The results of the research showed that, especially in terms of RCP8.5, very high risk of decrease in water resources and hydropower production is expected in the future. Therefore, recommendations for mitigation of the possible effects are presented. Full article
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Article
Cycling as a Sustainable Transport Alternative in Polish Cittaslow Towns
Sustainability 2020, 12(12), 5049; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12125049 - 20 Jun 2020
Cited by 11 | Viewed by 1115
Abstract
It is well known that growing motor traffic in urban areas causes air pollution and noise which affects the environment and public health. It is hardly surprising then that cycling should be used as an alternative mode of transport, not just in major [...] Read more.
It is well known that growing motor traffic in urban areas causes air pollution and noise which affects the environment and public health. It is hardly surprising then that cycling should be used as an alternative mode of transport, not just in major cities but also in smaller ones including those that are members of the Cittaslow network. Their approach is based on sustainable development, care for the environment and transport solutions which will support a healthy lifestyle, reduced energy consumption and fewer emissions. The objective of the article is to analyse how well cycling is used as a means of transport in Polish Cittaslow towns. For this purpose, an analysis was conducted to understand how towns use their transport space to ensure accessibility and road safety. Reference is made to revitalisation programmes of Cittaslow towns with focus on what has been done to improve and build cycle paths in each town and outside of it. The work uses the following research methods: analysis of the literature, analysis of documents, including analysis of road incidents and traffic count. It has been demonstrated that cycling infrastructure in the towns under analysis has been marginalised. As a result, recommendations and suggestions are given which may inform decisions on how to build and transform cycling infrastructure in Cittaslow towns and in similar towns in Poland and abroad. Full article
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Article
Runoff and Water Quality in the Aspect of Environmental Impact Assessment of Experimental Area of Green Roofs in Lower Silesia
Sustainability 2020, 12(11), 4793; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12114793 - 11 Jun 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 866
Abstract
Green architecture, including green roofs, can limit the effects of urbanization. Green roofs soften the thermal effect in urban conditions, especially considering the significant increase in the European and global population and that a significant share of the age group, mainly the elderly [...] Read more.
Green architecture, including green roofs, can limit the effects of urbanization. Green roofs soften the thermal effect in urban conditions, especially considering the significant increase in the European and global population and that a significant share of the age group, mainly the elderly is exposed to diseases caused by high temperatures. We studied runoff and the quality of water from green roof systems in Lower Silesia, within the area of the Agro and Hydrometeorology Station Wrocław-Swojec, in the years 2012–2016. In the study, two systems with a vegetation layer based on light expanded clay aggregate and perlite were analyzed. The studies were based on the assessment of peak flow reduction, rainwater volume preservation and peak wave reduction. The calculated maximum retention performance indicator, relative to rainfall, for perlite surfaces was up to 65%, and in relation to the control surface up to 49%. In addition, the quality of water from runoff was estimated in the conditions of annual atmospheric deposition, taking into account such indicators as electrolytic conductivity; the content of N, NO3, NO2, NH4, P, PO4; and the content of metals, Cu, Zn, Pb and Cd. The load of total nitrogen exceeded the values of concentration in rainwater and amounted to 7.17 and 13.01 mg∙L−1 for leca and perlite, respectively. In the case of the metal content, significantly higher concentrations of copper and zinc from green surfaces were observed in relation to precipitation. For surfaces with perlite, these were 320 mg∙L−1 and 241 mg∙L−1, respectively, with rainwater concentrations of 50 and 31 mg∙L−1. Full article
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Article
Sustainable Green Roof Ecosystems: 100 Years of Functioning on Fortifications—A Case Study
Sustainability 2020, 12(11), 4721; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12114721 - 09 Jun 2020
Cited by 8 | Viewed by 923
Abstract
Green roofs have received much attention in recent years due to their ability to retain rainwater, increase urban diversity, and mitigate climate change in cities. This interdisciplinary study was carried out on three historical green roofs covering bunkers in Wrocław, located in southwestern [...] Read more.
Green roofs have received much attention in recent years due to their ability to retain rainwater, increase urban diversity, and mitigate climate change in cities. This interdisciplinary study was carried out on three historical green roofs covering bunkers in Wrocław, located in southwestern Poland. It presents the results of a three-year investigation of the water storage of these roofs. The study also presents soil conditions and spontaneous vegetation after their functioning for over 100 years. The soils covering the bunkers are made of sandy, sandy-loam, and loamy-sand deposits. This historical construction ensures good drainage and runoff of rainwater, and is able to absorb torrential rainfall ranging from 100 to 150 mm. It provides suitable conditions for vegetation growth, and forest communities with layers formed there. In their synanthropic flora, species of European deciduous forests dominate, which are characteristic of fresh or moist and eutrophic soils with a neutral reaction. Some invasive species, such as Robinia pseudoacacia, Padus serotina, and Impatiens parviflora, also occur with high abundance. Nowadays, historical green roofs on fortifications, although they have lost their primary military role, are of historical and natural value. These roofs can promote the nonmilitary functions of historical fortifications in order to strengthen the ties between nature and heritage. Protecting and monitoring historical green roofs should be included in the elements of the process of sustainable development and the conservation of these structures in order to mitigate climate change in the outskirts of the city. For this, it is necessary to ensure proper conservational protection, which, in addition to maintaining the original structure, profiles, and layout of the building, should include protection of their natural value. Full article
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Article
Aging Society and the Selected Aspects of Environmental Threats: Evidence from Poland
Sustainability 2020, 12(11), 4648; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12114648 - 06 Jun 2020
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 831
Abstract
The article addresses problems of population aging in Poland and the selected environmental hazards exerting a negative impact on seniors’ health. The introduction presents the reasons underlying the above-mentioned aging process and provides the characteristics of the primary environmental threats. The next part [...] Read more.
The article addresses problems of population aging in Poland and the selected environmental hazards exerting a negative impact on seniors’ health. The introduction presents the reasons underlying the above-mentioned aging process and provides the characteristics of the primary environmental threats. The next part covers the most important trends and indicators related to the demographic situation in the country. The core of the study is focused on presenting and interpreting the results of empirical research on the periodization of the population aging process in Poland, in the years 2004–2019, using the multidimensional statistical analysis method including, in particular, the data classification method. The key demographic factors differentiating the development phases of the population aging process include, in order of their significance: longer life expectancy of the population, narrowed gross reproduction rate, declining birth rate, and total migration balance. In addition, the article provides the analysis of the selected environmental threats’ impact on population aging in Poland, among which the following were indicated: high temperatures, solar conditions, heavy rainfall, strong winds, droughts, and fires. Moreover, the process of longer life expectancy in fine health is essentially related to two issues: the level of medical care, with particular attention paid to check-ups and preventive measures, and the promotion of a healthy lifestyle. In summary, it should be highlighted that the elimination of all pollutants or the reasons of environmental hazards is not possible; however, the actions primarily focused on reducing the emission of harmful gases into the atmosphere and other forms of environmental pollution should definitely be taken. Full article
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Article
Spatial Heterogeneous of Ecological Vulnerability in Arid and Semi-Arid Area: A Case of the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, China
Sustainability 2020, 12(11), 4401; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12114401 - 28 May 2020
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 813
Abstract
Ecological vulnerability, as an important evaluation method reflecting regional ecological status and the degree of stability, is the key content in global change and sustainable development. Most studies mainly focus on changes of ecological vulnerability concerning the temporal trend, but rarely take arid [...] Read more.
Ecological vulnerability, as an important evaluation method reflecting regional ecological status and the degree of stability, is the key content in global change and sustainable development. Most studies mainly focus on changes of ecological vulnerability concerning the temporal trend, but rarely take arid and semi-arid areas into consideration to explore the spatial heterogeneity of the ecological vulnerability index (EVI) there. In this study, we selected the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region on the Loess Plateau of China, a typical arid and semi-arid area, as a case to investigate the spatial heterogeneity of the EVI every five years, from 1990 to 2015. Based on remote sensing data, meteorological data, and economic statistical data, this study first evaluated the temporal‒spatial change of ecological vulnerability in the study area by Geo-information Tupu. Further, we explored the spatial heterogeneity of the ecological vulnerability using Getis-Ord Gi*. Results show that: (1) the regions with high ecological vulnerability are mainly concentrated in the north of the study area, which has high levels of economic growth, while the regions with low ecological vulnerability are mainly distributed in the relatively poor regions in the south of the study area. (2) From 1990 to 2015, ecological vulnerability showed an increasing trend in the study area. Additionally, there is significant transformation between different grades of the EVI, where the area of transformation between a slight vulnerability level and a light vulnerability level accounts for 41.56% of the transformation area. (3) Hot-spot areas of the EVI are mainly concentrated in the north of the study area, and cold-spot areas are mainly concentrated in the center and south of the study area. Spatial heterogeneity of ecological vulnerability is significant in the central and southern areas but insignificant in the north of the study area. (4) The grassland area is the main driving factor of the change in ecological vulnerability, which is also affected by both arid and semi-arid climates and ecological projects. This study can provide theoretical references for sustainable development to present feasible suggestions on protection measures and management modes in arid and semi-arid areas. Full article
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Article
A Combined Analysis of Sociological and Farm Management Factors Affecting Household Livelihood Vulnerability to Climate Change in Rural Burundi
Sustainability 2020, 12(10), 4296; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12104296 - 24 May 2020
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1309
Abstract
This paper analyzed the livelihood vulnerability of households in two communes using socio-economic data, where one site is a climate analogue of the other under expected future climate change. The analysis was undertaken in order to understand local variability in the vulnerability of [...] Read more.
This paper analyzed the livelihood vulnerability of households in two communes using socio-economic data, where one site is a climate analogue of the other under expected future climate change. The analysis was undertaken in order to understand local variability in the vulnerability of communities and how it can be addressed so as to foster progress towards rural adaptation planning. The study identified sources of household livelihood vulnerability by exploring human and social capitals, thus linking the human subsystem with existing biophysical vulnerability studies. Selected relevant variables were used in Factor Analysis on Mixed Data (FAMD), where the first eight dimensions of FAMD contributed most variability to the data. Clustering was done based on the eight dimensions, yielding five clusters with a mix of households from the two communes. Results showed that Cluster 3 was least vulnerable due to a greater proportion of households having adopted farming practices that enhance food and water availability. Households in the other clusters will need to make appropriate changes to reduce their vulnerability. Findings show that when analyzing rural vulnerability, rather than broadly looking at spatial climatic and farm management differences, social factors should also be investigated, as they can exert significant policy implications. Full article
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Article
Selected Elements of Technical Infrastructure in Municipalities Territorially Connected with National Parks
Sustainability 2020, 12(10), 4015; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12104015 - 14 May 2020
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 556
Abstract
The article addresses the problem of selected technical infrastructure elements (e.g., water supply, sewage, gas networks) in municipalities territorially connected with Polish national parks. Therefore, the research refers to the specific areas: both naturally valuable and attractive in terms of tourism. The time [...] Read more.
The article addresses the problem of selected technical infrastructure elements (e.g., water supply, sewage, gas networks) in municipalities territorially connected with Polish national parks. Therefore, the research refers to the specific areas: both naturally valuable and attractive in terms of tourism. The time range of the research covers the years 2003–2018. The studied networks were characterized based on the statistical analysis using linear ordering methods; synthetic measures of development were applied. It allowed the ranking construction of the examined municipalities in terms of the development level of water supply, sewage, and gas networks. The results show that the period 2003–2018 was characterized by a development of the analyzed networks in the vast majority of municipalities. Thus, the level of anthropopressure caused by the presence of local community and tourists in municipalities showed a decline. It is worth emphasizing that the infrastructure investments are carried out comprehensively. Favoring investments in the development of any of the abovementioned networks was not observed. Full article
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Article
The Comparative Analysis of the Adaptability Level of Municipalities in the Nysa Kłodzka Sub-Basin to Flood Hazard
Sustainability 2020, 12(7), 3003; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12073003 - 09 Apr 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 847
Abstract
A municipality is a basic local government unit (LGU) in Poland. It is responsible for the safety of its citizens, especially in circumstances of flood hazard. A municipality is a unique social-ecological system (SES), distinguished by its ability to adapt to flood hazard. [...] Read more.
A municipality is a basic local government unit (LGU) in Poland. It is responsible for the safety of its citizens, especially in circumstances of flood hazard. A municipality is a unique social-ecological system (SES), distinguished by its ability to adapt to flood hazard. It is impossible to specify the conditions a municipality has to reach to achieve the highest adaptability to flood hazard, however, it is possible to assign a level of adaptability to a municipality, one that corresponds to the position of a given municipality among the population of assessed municipalities threatened by floods. Therefore, a tool was developed to rank municipalities by their adaptability on the assumption that the assessment of municipal adaptability was influenced by 15 selected features. The research was carried out using data from the period of 2010–2016 for 18 municipalities-SESs located in the Nysa Kłodzka sub-basin. It was indicated that municipalities located in the higher course of the river possess higher levels of adaptability. At the same time, the size of a flood stands for each municipality position with regards to the synthetic adaptability index (SAI). Full article
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Article
How do Clusters Foster Sustainable Development? An Analysis of EU Policies
Sustainability 2020, 12(4), 1297; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12041297 - 11 Feb 2020
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 1288
Abstract
Sustainable development is one of the fundamental and most important objectives of the worldwide policy. The conducted research shows that sustainable development (SD) is increasingly important in the consciousness of the EU countries, which can be viewed through a prism of the undertaken [...] Read more.
Sustainable development is one of the fundamental and most important objectives of the worldwide policy. The conducted research shows that sustainable development (SD) is increasingly important in the consciousness of the EU countries, which can be viewed through a prism of the undertaken projects. This paper raises the issue of clusters and their significance in the development of a sustainable economy. The article explores trends in the European Union policy related to sustainable development and clusters. The purpose of this study is to find an answer to the following questions: How can clusters contribute to sustainable development and what are the key factors that ensure this process? To achieve the goal of the article a systematic study of the literature and reports was carried out. Moreover, the analysis of the activity of European clusters in the context of sustainable development was performed. Next, the examples of cluster projects focused on sustainable development were presented. It was shown that the clusters contribute a smarter and sustainable development by succeeding in technological and scientific results, developing new technologies for emerging industries, creating new business activities, enticing major technology companies, and connecting local firms into world-class value systems. Furthermore, the clusters participate actively in sustainable development as they promote knowledge creation, joint learning, technology transfer, as well as collaboration, and sustainable innovations. Finally, clusters facilitate the sustainable upgrading of small and medium enterprises and encourage the participation of stakeholders in the process of sustainable development. Full article
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Article
The Influence of Negative Political Environment on Sustainable Tourism: A Study of Aksu-Jabagly World Heritage Site, Kazakhstan
Sustainability 2020, 12(1), 143; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12010143 - 23 Dec 2019
Cited by 7 | Viewed by 1480
Abstract
The political environment of a tourism destination is the most important element in planning, implementing, and controlling sustainable tourism development. The political environment refers to the coordination and cooperation among many participants to formulate and apply tourism policies. In our study the term [...] Read more.
The political environment of a tourism destination is the most important element in planning, implementing, and controlling sustainable tourism development. The political environment refers to the coordination and cooperation among many participants to formulate and apply tourism policies. In our study the term political environment refers to political power, leadership, structures, mechanisms, and strategies, or policies for the implementation of sustainable tourism development. The main purpose of this article is to, through the example of Aksu-Jabagly natural heritage site in Kazakhstan, study how the negative political environment (NPE) of a tourism destination inhibits the implementation of sustainable tourism development in Kazakhstan. This study draws on in-depth interviews with local residents who are considered as one of the key stakeholders in the tourism industry. In our research, we conducted a questionnaire survey of 222 representative households from the neighboring village of Aksu-Jabagly, a natural world heritage site. Results show that because of negative political environments, the residents highly perceive the negative economic and environmental impacts of tourism development. Although the residents highly evaluated tourism’s positive sociocultural impacts, its relevance to other indicators was relatively weak. The residents are dissatisfied with tourism development, and their participation level in tourism was low. The results also reveal that highly perceived negative economic and negative environmental impacts of tourism are the main cause of residents’ dissatisfaction with tourism development and residents’ lack of participation in tourism. Full article
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Article
Eco-Environmental Risk Evaluation for Land Use Planning in Areas of Potential Farmland Abandonment in the High Mountains of Nepal Himalayas
Sustainability 2019, 11(24), 6931; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11246931 - 05 Dec 2019
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1080
Abstract
Land use change, especially that due to farmland abandonment in the mountains of Nepal, is being seen as a major factor contributing to increasing eco-environmental risk, undesirable changes in the socio-cultural landscape, biodiversity loss, and reduced capacity of the ecosystem to provide key [...] Read more.
Land use change, especially that due to farmland abandonment in the mountains of Nepal, is being seen as a major factor contributing to increasing eco-environmental risk, undesirable changes in the socio-cultural landscape, biodiversity loss, and reduced capacity of the ecosystem to provide key services. This study aims to: i) evaluate eco-environmental risk for one of the high mountain river basins, the Dordi river basin in Nepal, that has a growing potential of farmland abandonment; and ii) develop a risk-based land use planning framework for mitigating the impact of risk and for enhancing sustainable management practices in mountain regions. We employed a multi-criteria analytic hierarchy process (AHP) to assign risk weightage to geophysical and socio-demographic factors, and performed spatial superposition analysis in the model builder of a geographic information system (GIS) to produce an eco-environmental risk map, which was subjected to a reliability check against existing eco-environmental conditions by ground truthing and using statistical models. The result shows that 22.36% of the basin area has a high level of risk. The very high, extreme high, moderate, and low zones accounted 17.38%, 7.93%, 28.49%, and 23.81%, respectively. A high level of eco-environmental risk occurs mostly in the north and northwest, but appears in patches in the south as well, whereas the level of moderate risk is concentrated in the southern parts of the river basin. All the land use types, notably, forest, grassland, shrub land, and cultivated farmland, are currently under stress, which generally increases with elevation towards the north but is also concentrated along the road network and river buffer zones where human interference with nature is the maximum. The risk map and the framework are expected to provide information and a scientific evidence-base for formulating and reasonable development strategies and guidelines for consensus-based utilization and protection of eco-environmental resources in the river basin. As an awareness raising tool, it also can activate social processes enabling communities to design for and mitigate the consequences of hazardous events. Moreover, this risk assessment allows an important link in understanding regional eco-environmental risk situation, land use, natural resources, and environmental management. Full article
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Article
From Single-Use Community Facilities Support to Integrated Sustainable Development: The Aims of Inter-Municipal Cooperation in Poland, 1990–2018
Sustainability 2019, 11(21), 5890; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11215890 - 23 Oct 2019
Cited by 10 | Viewed by 930
Abstract
The paper explores and compares the aims of the three most common legal forms of inter-municipal cooperation in Poland (engaging rural, urban-rural and urban municipalities) during the years 1990–2018: Mono-sectoral Special Purpose Unions, Municipal Associations and cross-sectoral Local Action Groups. Content analysis was [...] Read more.
The paper explores and compares the aims of the three most common legal forms of inter-municipal cooperation in Poland (engaging rural, urban-rural and urban municipalities) during the years 1990–2018: Mono-sectoral Special Purpose Unions, Municipal Associations and cross-sectoral Local Action Groups. Content analysis was applied and development priorities from the statutes and strategies were studied. The main form of territorial association evolved from, initially, mono-functional bodies concerned mainly with local infrastructural investment and managed solely by a group of local authorities, to a devolved type, consisting of multi-purpose associations managed with the participation of economic and third sector representatives. This was the result of the European Union policy of promoting territorial governance and integrated development in functional regions, this being considered as part of the process of Europeanisation. However, these successive forms of municipal cooperation do not appear to have replaced the pre-existing forms, but they have introduced additional modes of governance of local resources. The findings show that the most “integrated” and “sustainable” management of local resources is observed mainly in cross-sectoral partnerships, like Local Action Groups, but not so often in mono-sectoral municipal unions and associations led solely by local government and focused more on hard infrastructure and municipal facilities. However, given the specialisation shown by each of the three types of association, it is likely that the full range of development possibilities in the areas concerned can only be realised if all three forms of cooperation are present. The analysis confirms the positive role of local economic and social sector participation in shaping sustainable development. The findings also indicate the utility of the concept of cross-sectoral territorial partnerships in post-socialist and post-authoritarian countries lacking traditions of grassroots or participative development. Full article
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Article
A Customized Decision Support System for Renewable Energy Application by Housing Association
Sustainability 2019, 11(16), 4377; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11164377 - 13 Aug 2019
Cited by 7 | Viewed by 1257
Abstract
One of the major problems in socio-environmental systems is the growing depletion of non-renewable resources and environmental degradation, resulting from inadequate environmental management and planning. Deepening environmental problems have forced countries to create management instruments that will help repair damage and support environmental [...] Read more.
One of the major problems in socio-environmental systems is the growing depletion of non-renewable resources and environmental degradation, resulting from inadequate environmental management and planning. Deepening environmental problems have forced countries to create management instruments that will help repair damage and support environmental protection efforts. The aim of this research is to develop a customized decision support system for the management of renewable energy based on the existing Geographic Information Systems (GIS). The proposed tool enables assessing the potential of solar energy production at the local scale, analyzing each rooftop. Due to the scale of the analyzed area and the details of the assessment, the tool is customized to the needs of housing associations. The system combines an existing GIS tool for calculating the solar radiation potential of rooftops (SOLIS) together with Tableau software that was used to aggregate and analyze data. In order to present the applicability of the developed tool, visualizations were prepared based on housing buildings managed by the “Biskupin” Housing Association in Wrocław (Poland) which is responsible for the management of 3415 residential premises. The created system based on spatial and environmental data will help to decide how to manage the available resources and the environment at the local scale while reducing the pressure on the environment. The tool allows for the aggregation, filtering and presentation of spatial data for the entire area of a housing association, as well as for a single building. Full article
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Article
The Use of Artificial Intelligence as a Tool Supporting Sustainable Development Local Policy
Sustainability 2019, 11(15), 4199; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11154199 - 03 Aug 2019
Cited by 15 | Viewed by 1703
Abstract
This paper addresses the problem of noise in spa protection areas. Its aim is to determine the delimitation of the areas that exceed a permissible noise level around the sanatorium on the example of a health resort in Inowrocław. The determination of the [...] Read more.
This paper addresses the problem of noise in spa protection areas. Its aim is to determine the delimitation of the areas that exceed a permissible noise level around the sanatorium on the example of a health resort in Inowrocław. The determination of the exceedance of permissible noise levels allows us to develop directly effective local policy tools to be included in planning documents. In order to reduce noise infiltration, it is important to define environmental priorities. Taking into account their impact on the health of users in the protection area, environmental priorities enable us to introduce additional elements to street architecture. In order to properly manage space, in accordance with the idea of sustainable development, zones of environmental sensitivity—and their socio-environmental vulnerability—have been designated for assessing damage (exceeding permissible noise in health facilities) and defining methods of building resilience (proper management). This has provided the basis for a natural balance optimized for the people living in these areas. To achieve the goal above, non-linear support vector machine (SVM) networks were used. This technique allows us to classify the linearly inseparable data and to determine the optimal separation margin. The boundaries of the areas which exceeded permissible noise levels (separation margin) were estimated on the basis of noise pollution maps, created by means of the SVM technique. Thus, the study results in establishing buffer zones where it is possible to use varied land utilization in terms of form and function, as described in the planning documents. Such an activity would limit the spread of noise. Full article
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Article
The Use of Waste Biomass from the Wood Industry and Municipal Sources for Energy Production
Sustainability 2019, 11(11), 3083; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11113083 - 31 May 2019
Cited by 13 | Viewed by 1187
Abstract
Biomass can be used for the production of energy from renewable sources. Because of social resistance to burning crop plants, mixtures and pellets made from or including waste materials are a good alternative. The mixtures analyzed, prepared from wood and municipal waste, were [...] Read more.
Biomass can be used for the production of energy from renewable sources. Because of social resistance to burning crop plants, mixtures and pellets made from or including waste materials are a good alternative. The mixtures analyzed, prepared from wood and municipal waste, were characterized for their calorific values, 7.4–18.2 MJ·kg−1. A result, over 15 MJ·kg−1 was obtained for 47% of the quantities of mixtures being composed. It has been demonstrated that wood shavings and sewage sludge have a stabilizing effect on the durability of pellets. The emissions of acidic anhydrides into the atmosphere from the combustion of pellets from waste biomass were lower for NO, NO2, NOx and H2S than emissions from the combustion of willow pellets. Obtained emission results suggest the need to further optimize the combustion process parameters. Full article
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Review

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Review
Shifting Perspectives in Assessing Socio-Environmental Vulnerability
Sustainability 2020, 12(7), 2625; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12072625 - 26 Mar 2020
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1217
Abstract
Governments and institutions across the globe are conducting vulnerability assessments and developing adaptation plans to confront rapidly changing climatic conditions. Interrelated priorities, including the conservation of biodiversity, ecological restoration, sustainable development, and social justice often underlie these efforts. We collaborated with colleagues in [...] Read more.
Governments and institutions across the globe are conducting vulnerability assessments and developing adaptation plans to confront rapidly changing climatic conditions. Interrelated priorities, including the conservation of biodiversity, ecological restoration, sustainable development, and social justice often underlie these efforts. We collaborated with colleagues in an effort to help guide vulnerability assessment and adaptation (VAA) generally in Southeast Asia and specifically in the watershed of the Sirindhorn International Environmental Park (SIEP) in Phetchaburi Province, Thailand. Reflecting upon our experiences and a review of recent VAA literature, we examine a series of seven questions that help to frame the socio-ecological context for VAAs. We then propose a three-dimensional framework for understanding common orientations of VAAs and how they appear to be shifting and broadening over time, particularly in the USA. For example, key leaders in the SIEP project emphasized social development and community-based approaches over more ecology-centric approaches; this orientation was consistent with other examples from SE Asia. In contrast, many efforts for US national forests have evaluated vulnerability based on projected shifts in vegetation and have promoted adaptation options based upon ecological restoration. Illustrating a third, highly integrated approach, many VAAs prepared by indigenous tribes in the USA have emphasized restoring historical ecological conditions within a broader context of promoting cultural traditions, social justice, and adaptive capacity. We conclude with lessons learned and suggestions for advancing integrated approaches. Full article
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Other

Technical Note
Climate: An R Package to Access Free In-Situ Meteorological and Hydrological Datasets For Environmental Assessment
Sustainability 2020, 12(1), 394; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12010394 - 03 Jan 2020
Cited by 16 | Viewed by 4438
Abstract
Freely available and reliable meteorological datasets are highly demanded in many scientific and business applications. However, the structure of publicly available databases is often difficult to follow, especially for users who only deal with this kind of dataset on occasion. The “climate” R [...] Read more.
Freely available and reliable meteorological datasets are highly demanded in many scientific and business applications. However, the structure of publicly available databases is often difficult to follow, especially for users who only deal with this kind of dataset on occasion. The “climate” R package aims to fill this gap with an easy-to-use interface for downloading global meteorological data in a fast and consistent way. The package provides access to different sources of in-situ meteorological data, including the Ogimet website, atmospheric vertical sounding gathered at the University of Wyoming’s webpage, and hydrological and meteorological measurements collected by the Institute of Meteorology and Water Management—National Research Institute (i.e., Polish Met Office). This article also provides a quick overview of the key functionalities available within the climate R package, and gives examples of an efficient and tidy workflow of meteorological data within the R based environment. The automation procedures included in the packages allow one to download data in a user-defined time resolution (from hourly to annual), for a user-defined time span, and for a specified group of stations or countries. The package also contains metadata, including a list of available stations, their geospatial information, and measurement descriptions with their units. Finally, the obtained datasets can be processed in R or exported to external tools (e.g., spreadsheets or GIS software). Full article
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