Special Issue "The Metabolism of Islands"

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

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 September 2020).

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Dr. Simron Singh
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
School of Environment, Enterprise and Development, University of Waterloo, 200 University Ave W, Waterloo, ON N2L 3G1, Canada
Interests: social metabolism; ecological economics; industrial ecology; material and energy flows; time use; local studies; sustainable resource use on small islands
Prof. Dr. Marina Fischer-Kowalski
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Institute of Social Ecology (SEC), University of NaturalResources and Life Sciences (BOKU)
Interests: social metabolism; socioecological transitions; theories of social change; social ecology; sustainable resource use; environmental sociology
Prof. Dr. Marian Chertow
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University, New Haven, USA
Interests: industrial environmental management; industrial symbiosis; circular economy; waste management
Special Issues and Collections in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Based on a materials stock and flow principle, the field of Industrial Ecology systematically analyzes interactions between human/industrial activities and the environment, in order to move towards practices that are sustainable in the long-term. The emphasis is on society’s resource use and resource efficiency at multiple scales. The concept of “social metabolism" and its accounting framework, Material and Energy Flows Analysis (MEFA), have made considerable advancements in the ability to measure resource throughput for understanding long-term trends in national and global resource use, decoupling, and circular economy.

 Islands are excellent focal points for studies of Industrial Ecology. Not only does the clear boundary of islands simplify tracking resource flows, but the limited resource availability and carrying capacity of small islands warrant better tracking and management of these inputs and outputs. The challenge of resource security on small islands is further aggravated by the global environmental change. Sea level rise and extreme weather events result not only in infrastructure losses but also in the immediate loss of critical services. Restoring the services provided by these stocks comes with large material requirements for reconstruction, oftentimes incurring huge debts.

This Special Issue invites contributions that look at material stocks and flows on small island states (SIS) and sub-national island jurisdictions (SNIJ), how such insights can support island societies to move towards more sustainable and resilient modes of production, consumption and infrastructure development. The special issue will also consider compelling contributions related to island sustainability in general. 

Prof. Dr. Simron Singh
Prof. Dr. Marina Fischer-Kowalski
Prof. Dr. Marian Chertow
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 papers will be 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 1900 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

  • social metabolism
  • material and energy flows
  • small islands
  • island industrial ecology
  • resource use
  • resource efficiency
  • circular economy

Published Papers (10 papers)

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Editorial

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Editorial
Introduction: The Metabolism of Islands
Sustainability 2020, 12(22), 9516; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12229516 - 16 Nov 2020
Viewed by 769
Abstract
This editorial introduces the Special Issue “Metabolism of Islands”. It makes a case why we should care about islands and their sustainability. Islands are hotspots of biocultural diversity, and home to 600 million people that depend on one-sixth of the earth’s total area, [...] Read more.
This editorial introduces the Special Issue “Metabolism of Islands”. It makes a case why we should care about islands and their sustainability. Islands are hotspots of biocultural diversity, and home to 600 million people that depend on one-sixth of the earth’s total area, including the surrounding oceans, for their subsistence. Today, they are on the frontlines of climate change and face an existential crisis. Islands are, however, potential “hubs of innovation” and are uniquely positioned to be leaders in sustainability and climate action. We argue that a full-fledged program on “island industrial ecology” is urgently needed with the aim to offer policy-relevant insights and strategies to sustain small islands in an era of global environmental change. We introduce key industrial ecology concepts, and the state-of-the-art in applying them to islands. Nine contributions in this Special Issue are briefly reviewed to highlight the metabolic risks inherent in the island cases. The contributors explore how reconfiguring patterns of resource use will allow island governments to build resilience and adapt to the challenges of climate change. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Metabolism of Islands)
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Research

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Article
GIS-Based Material Stock Analysis (MSA) of Climate Vulnerabilities to the Tourism Industry in Antigua and Barbuda
Sustainability 2020, 12(19), 8090; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12198090 - 30 Sep 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 966
Abstract
In the past decades, the Caribbean economy has transformed to rely primarily on tourism with a vast amount of infrastructure dedicated to this sector. At the same time, the region is subject to repeated crises in the form of extreme weather events that [...] Read more.
In the past decades, the Caribbean economy has transformed to rely primarily on tourism with a vast amount of infrastructure dedicated to this sector. At the same time, the region is subject to repeated crises in the form of extreme weather events that are becoming more frequent, deadly, and costly. Damages to buildings and infrastructure (or the material stocks) from storms disrupt the local economy by an immediate decline in tourists and loss of critical services. In Antigua and Barbuda (A&B), tourism contributes 80% to the GDP and is a major driver for adding new material stocks to support the industry. This research analyzes A&B’s material stocks (MSs) in buildings (aggregates, timber, concrete, and steel) using geographic information systems (GIS) with physical parameters such as building size and footprint, material intensity, and the number of floors. In 2004, the total MSs of buildings was estimated at 4.7 million tonnes (mt), equivalent to 58.5 tonnes per capita, with the share of non-metallic minerals to be highest (2.9 mt), followed by aggregates (1.2 mt), steel (0.44 mt), and timber (0.18 mt). Under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) 2 meter (m) sea level rise scenario, an estimated 4% of the island’s total MSs would be exposed. The tourism sector would disproportionately experience the greatest exposure of 19% of its MSs. By linking stocks to services, our research contributes to the understanding of the complexities between the environmental and economic vulnerability of island systems, and the need for better infrastructure planning as part of resilience building. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Metabolism of Islands)
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Article
The Impact of Hurricane Irma on the Metabolism of St. Martin’s Island
Sustainability 2020, 12(17), 6731; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12176731 - 19 Aug 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 896
Abstract
Due to their sometimes devastating and, at the same time, transformative effects, the impacts of major hurricanes on small islands leave their mark both on the way territories operate and on their future development. This was the case during the passage of hurricane [...] Read more.
Due to their sometimes devastating and, at the same time, transformative effects, the impacts of major hurricanes on small islands leave their mark both on the way territories operate and on their future development. This was the case during the passage of hurricane Irma over the island of Saint Martin in 2017. By analyzing the stocks and circulation of hurricane waste flows, our aim was to see whether the inherent evolution of Saint Martin’s metabolism as a result of the island’s total destruction tended toward a lasting transformation of its waste management system and, therefore, toward the territory’s sustainability. This evolution was analyzed in a diachronic approach and over a short time frame. It was based on three structuring territorial metabolism dimensions: the intensity of waste flows, the spatial structure of the metabolism and the actors and techniques that explain it. Results show that while the intensity of the waste flows changed durably after Irma, the lasting transformation of the spatial structure and the actor system was less obvious and depended on the waste stream. Results also reveal the importance of reflecting on the development of recycling and reuse methods as a solution for improving post-hurricane waste planning on islands. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Metabolism of Islands)
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Article
The Hawaiian Islands: Conceptualizing an Industrial Ecology Holarchic System
Sustainability 2020, 12(8), 3104; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12083104 - 13 Apr 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1001
Abstract
The Hawaiian Islands form a holarchic system with at least five nested layers (holons) at increasing spatial scales: from a single enterprise to cities, to individual islands, to the archipelago (the group of islands), and to the global resource base that connects them [...] Read more.
The Hawaiian Islands form a holarchic system with at least five nested layers (holons) at increasing spatial scales: from a single enterprise to cities, to individual islands, to the archipelago (the group of islands), and to the global resource base that connects them all. Each holonic layer operates individually but is also linked to holons at lower and higher levels by material input and output flows. An integrated study of the holarchic system allows us to explore the value of applying this concept to industrial ecology. We present examples from a multi-level material flow analysis combining a large quantity of material and energy flow data for Hawaii from the five holarchic levels. Our analysis demonstrates how a holarchic approach to the study of selected interacting systems can reveal features and linkages of their metabolism not otherwise apparent and can provide a novel basis for discovering material, energy, and societal connections. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Metabolism of Islands)
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Article
The “Metal-Energy-Construction Mineral” Nexus in the Island Metabolism: The Case of the Extractive Economy of New Caledonia
Sustainability 2020, 12(6), 2191; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12062191 - 12 Mar 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 864
Abstract
The concept of island metabolism strives to implement the principles of social ecology at the island scale. It is, therefore, a question of analyzing the flows of materials and energy passing through these territories, as well as the resource base needed to sustain [...] Read more.
The concept of island metabolism strives to implement the principles of social ecology at the island scale. It is, therefore, a question of analyzing the flows of materials and energy passing through these territories, as well as the resource base needed to sustain their activities. We propose to develop a nexus approach to the New Caledonian island metabolism to understand the interactions between biophysical structures and societal, as well as economic, activities. Metals, construction minerals, and energy are good symbols of economies based on the extraction of non-renewable resources. This is why, in this article, we sought to investigate how the “metal-energy-construction mineral” nexus can affect the resilience and metabolic sustainability of the extractive island of New Caledonia. We carried out the Material and Energy Flow Analysis (MEFA) of each nexus subsystem for 2016 and of the nodes of interdependence. We also interrogated the role of importing countries because the island’s metabolism is dominated by the nickel extraction industry. Indeed, the metabolic profile of this island corresponds to the one of a supply territory for other consumption territories. The latter outsource the impacts of their own consumption to New Caledonia. Finally, based on interviews with economic stakeholders, we studied the potential building blocks for the emergence of an industrial symbiosis in the nexus. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Metabolism of Islands)
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Article
Samothraki in Transition: A Report on a Real-World Lab to Promote the Sustainability of a Greek Island
Sustainability 2020, 12(5), 1932; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12051932 - 03 Mar 2020
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1280
Abstract
This is a case study on a small mountainous island in the Aegean Sea with the policy goal of preparing it to become member of UNESCO’s World Network of Biosphere Reserves. While the local community opted for such an identity very early on, [...] Read more.
This is a case study on a small mountainous island in the Aegean Sea with the policy goal of preparing it to become member of UNESCO’s World Network of Biosphere Reserves. While the local community opted for such an identity very early on, there are a number of obstacles to be overcome. The multidisciplinary research is based upon a sociometabolic approach and focuses on two issues: The transformation of agriculture, mainly herding of sheep and goats, and the shift to tourism. The degradation of the landscape caused by extensive roaming of goats and sheep constitute one of the major sustainability challenges of the island. We analyze farmers’ opportunities and describe new initiatives to get out of this deadlock. The impacts of the transition to tourism are addressed from an infrastructural perspective: A shift from traditional stone buildings to bricks and concrete, the establishment of new roads and ports, and the challenges to water supply and wastewater removal, also with reference to the quality and amounts of wastes generated that need to be dealt with. The island has so far escaped mass tourism and attracts mainly eco-tourists who value its remoteness and wilderness. We discuss how to serve this clientele best in the future, and increase local job opportunities and income while maintaining environmental quality. Finally, we reflect upon emerging new forms of local collaboration and the impact of our research efforts on a sustainability transition that might be on its way. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Metabolism of Islands)
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Article
Lost Material Stock in Buildings due to Sea Level Rise from Global Warming: The Case of Fiji Islands
Sustainability 2020, 12(3), 834; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12030834 - 22 Jan 2020
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1620
Abstract
This study developed a methodology to estimate the amount of construction material in coastal buildings which are lost due to climate change-induced sea level rise. The Republic of Fiji was chosen as a case study; sea level rise is based on predictions by [...] Read more.
This study developed a methodology to estimate the amount of construction material in coastal buildings which are lost due to climate change-induced sea level rise. The Republic of Fiji was chosen as a case study; sea level rise is based on predictions by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for the years 2050 and 2100. This study combines the concept of a geographic information system based digital inundation analysis with the concept of a material stock analysis. The findings show that about 4.5% of all existing buildings on Fiji will be inundated by 2050 because of an expected global sea level rise of 0.22 m (scenario 1) and 6.2% by 2100 for a sea level rise of 0.63 m (scenario 2). The number of buildings inundated by 2050 is equivalent to 40% of the average number of new constructed buildings in Fiji Islands in a single year. Overall, the amount of materials present in buildings which will be inundated by 2050 is 900,000 metric tons (815,650 metric tons of concrete, 52,100 metric tons of timber, and 31,680 metric tons of steel). By 2100, this amount is expected to grow to 1,151,000 metric tons (1,130,160 metric tons of concrete, 69,760 metric tons of timber, and 51,320 metric tons of steel). The results shall contribute in enhancing urban planning, climate change adaptation strategies, and the estimation of future demolition flows in small island developing states. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Metabolism of Islands)
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Article
Caught in a Deadlock: Small Ruminant Farming on the Greek Island of Samothrace. The Importance of Regional Contexts for Effective EU Agricultural Policies
Sustainability 2020, 12(3), 762; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12030762 - 21 Jan 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1253
Abstract
Sedentary extensive small ruminant farming systems are highly important for the preservation of High Nature Value (HNV) farmland. Both the abandonment of grazing and overgrazing have led to environmental degradation in many Mediterranean regions. On the Greek island of Samothrace, decades of overgrazing [...] Read more.
Sedentary extensive small ruminant farming systems are highly important for the preservation of High Nature Value (HNV) farmland. Both the abandonment of grazing and overgrazing have led to environmental degradation in many Mediterranean regions. On the Greek island of Samothrace, decades of overgrazing by sheep and goats has caused severe degradation of local ecosystems. The present study highlights the importance of regional contexts for national and EU agricultural policies in regard to sustainable development of sedentary extensive livestock systems. By utilizing the conceptual framework of socio-ecological systems research, we analyze the interdependencies of environmental, economic and social factors on a local island level. Results show that between 1929 and 2016, the livestock and land-use system of Samothrace transformed from a diverse system towards a simplified system, solely used for small ruminant production. Total livestock units increased from 2200 in 1929 to 7850 in 2002, declining to 5100 thereafter. The metabolic analysis conducted for the years 1993–2016 shows that 80–90% of the feed demand of small ruminants was covered by grazing, exceeding available grazing resources for at least a decade. The regional implementation of CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) continues to support excessively high animal numbers, while farmers are highly dependent on subsidies and find themselves in an economic deadlock. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Metabolism of Islands)
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Article
The Social Metabolism of Quiet Sustainability in the Faroe Islands
Sustainability 2020, 12(2), 735; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12020735 - 20 Jan 2020
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 1266
Abstract
This paper investigates the interrelations between social metabolism and socio-ecological sustainability in the Faroe Islands in a long-term perspective. It traces the trajectory and changes in socio-metabolic configurations from the time of settlement until today and shows how social metabolism has increased to [...] Read more.
This paper investigates the interrelations between social metabolism and socio-ecological sustainability in the Faroe Islands in a long-term perspective. It traces the trajectory and changes in socio-metabolic configurations from the time of settlement until today and shows how social metabolism has increased to very high per capita levels during the past century. The analysis departs from the recognition that a decrease in social metabolism, i.e., a net reduction in throughput of natural resources in human economies, is necessary in order to curb the impending ecological crisis. It is argued that parallel to the growth oriented formal Faroese economy, economic food-provisioning practices rooted in the traditional, and ecologically sustainable, land management system continue to be practiced by Faroese people. These practices can be conceptualized as practices of so-called “quiet sustainability” and their contribution is estimated in bio-physical metrics of weight. The analysis shows that practices of “quiet sustainability” contribute significant quantities of certain food items to the local population thereby enhancing food security and food sovereignty. Moreover, these practices are an integral element in the biocultural diversity, which has constituted the Faroe Islands for close to two millennia. Therefore, they should be considered real alternatives to import-based consumption and taken into account in sustainability discourse and policy to a higher degree than is currently the case. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Metabolism of Islands)
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Article
Plastics Waste Metabolism in a Petro-Island State: Towards Solving a “Wicked Problem” in Trinidad and Tobago
Sustainability 2019, 11(23), 6580; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11236580 - 21 Nov 2019
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 1612
Abstract
Island systems have limited geographical, ecological, and social capacity to metabolize waste materials produced by the economic activities of their growing populations. Conceptualized as a ‘wicked problem’, the faults and weaknesses in waste management systems on islands continue to cause acute and cumulative [...] Read more.
Island systems have limited geographical, ecological, and social capacity to metabolize waste materials produced by the economic activities of their growing populations. Conceptualized as a ‘wicked problem’, the faults and weaknesses in waste management systems on islands continue to cause acute and cumulative ecological and human health impacts. Trinidad and Tobago is one such island jurisdiction grappling with this situation, particularly being a petroleum-dependent economy. Through the lens of neo-institutional theory, this case study of waste management in Trinidad and Tobago unpacks the efforts, reactions, drivers and circumstances that have led to various successes and failures but no definitive solutions over time, especially regarding plastics and packaging materials. We identify three temporal phases of policy evolution that have altered the waste metabolism trajectory to date: (1) government led patriarchal approach of traditional landfilling combined with behavioral change campaigns to reduce, reuse, and recycle, (2) to a more democratic, shared burden, public-private partnership approach combined with attempts at incentive-based regulations, (3) to the present, more private sector-led voluntary bans on production and use of plastics. This study contributes to our understanding of the institutional factors that shape the search for solutions to the wicked problem of island waste metabolism. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Metabolism of Islands)
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