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Special Issue "Application of the Ecosystem Service Concept in Social–Ecological Systems—from Theory to Practice"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Sustainable Use of the Environment and Resources".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 31 December 2019

Special Issue Editors

Guest Editor
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Georg F. Leitinger

Department of Ecology, University of Innsbruck, 6020 Innsbruck, Austria
Website | E-Mail
Interests: ecosystem research and landscape ecology
Guest Editor
Dr. Uta Schirpke

Institute for Alpine Environment - Eurac Research, 39100 Bozen-Bolzano, Italy;Department of Ecology, University of Innsbruck, 6020 Innsbruck, Austria
Website 1 | Website 2 | E-Mail
Interests: ecosystem services; ecology and spatial modelling
Guest Editor
Dr. Johannes Rüdisser

Department of Ecology, University of Innsbruck, 6020 Innsbruck, Austria
Website | E-Mail
Interests: geo-spatial analysis and modelling; indicator development and environmental education

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Ecological footprint analyses demonstrate that the world's more than 7.5 billion people consume multiple planet’s worth of resources. To incite and evaluate societal changes aiming at a sustainable use of the environment and its natural resources, the ecosystem service concept was developed more than 20 years ago. To ensure the sustainable provision of indispensable ecosystem services the concept has been refined and enhanced enabling application across various temporal and spatial scales. However, evidence-based strategies and policies are needed to preserve biodiversity and the natural capital in a changing world. This Special Issue, therefore, addresses studies advancing terminology, frameworks, concepts, and applications related to ecosystem services assessment with particular focus on social–ecological systems. We also welcome best-practice guidelines and papers addressing the most relevant open research questions and future perspectives in the context of goods and services provided by nature.

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Georg Leitinger
Dr. Uta Schirpke
Dr. Johannes Rüdisser
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 1700 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

  • Ecosystem services
  • Social-ecological systems
  • Biodiversity
  • Natural capital
  • Multidisciplinarity
  • Resilience
  • Resistance
  • Best practice
  • Monitoring

Published Papers (5 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle Harnessing Insights from Social-Ecological Systems Research for Monitoring Sustainable Development
Sustainability 2019, 11(4), 1190; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11041190
Received: 28 November 2018 / Revised: 2 February 2019 / Accepted: 19 February 2019 / Published: 23 February 2019
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Abstract
The United Nations’ Agenda 2030 marks significant progress towards sustainable development by making explicit the intention to integrate previously separate social, economic and environmental agendas. Despite this intention, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which were adopted to implement the agenda, are fragmented in [...] Read more.
The United Nations’ Agenda 2030 marks significant progress towards sustainable development by making explicit the intention to integrate previously separate social, economic and environmental agendas. Despite this intention, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which were adopted to implement the agenda, are fragmented in their formulation and largely sectoral. We contend that while the design of the SDG monitoring is based on a systems approach, it still misses most of the dynamics and complexity relevant to sustainability outcomes. We propose that insights from the study of social-ecological systems offer a more integrated approach to the implementation of Agenda 2030, particularly the monitoring of progress towards sustainable development outcomes. Using five key features highlighted by the study of social-ecological systems (SESs) relevant to sustainable development: (1) social-ecological feedbacks, (2) resilience, (3) heterogeneity, (4) nonlinearity, and (5) cross-scale dynamics. We analyze the current set of SDG indicators based on these features to explore current progress in making them operational. Our analysis finds that 59% of the indicators account for heterogeneity, 33% for cross-scale dynamics, 23% for nonlinearities, and 18% and 17%, respectively, for social-ecological feedbacks and resilience. Our findings suggest limited use of complex SES science in the current design of SDG monitoring, but combining our findings with recent studies of methods to operationalize SES features suggests future directions for sustainable development monitoring for the current as well as post 2030 set of indicators. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Assessing Freshwater Provision and Consumption in the Alpine Space Applying the Ecosystem Service Concept
Sustainability 2019, 11(4), 1131; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11041131
Received: 11 January 2019 / Revised: 13 February 2019 / Accepted: 18 February 2019 / Published: 21 February 2019
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Abstract
A key challenge in the sustainable management of freshwater is related to non-stationary processes and transboundary requirements. The assessment of freshwater is often hampered due to small-scale analyses, lacking data and with the focus on only its provision. Based on the ecosystem service [...] Read more.
A key challenge in the sustainable management of freshwater is related to non-stationary processes and transboundary requirements. The assessment of freshwater is often hampered due to small-scale analyses, lacking data and with the focus on only its provision. Based on the ecosystem service (ES) concept, this study aims at quantitatively comparing potential water supply with the demand for freshwater in the European Alps and their surrounding lowlands. We propose an easy-to-use combination of different mapping approaches, including a large-scale hydrologic model to estimate water supply and the downscaling of regional data to the local scale to map demand. Our results demonstrate spatial mismatches between supply and demand and a high dependency of the densely populated lowlands from water providing mountain areas. Under expected climate variations and future demographic changes, our results suggest increasing pressures on freshwater in the south of the Alps. Hence, sustainable water management strategies need to assure the supply of freshwater under changing environmental conditions to meet the increasing water demand of urbanized areas in the lowlands. Moreover, national water management strategies need to be optimally concerted at the international level, as transboundary policies and frameworks can strengthen future water provision. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Cultural Ecosystem Services Provided by Urban Green Change along an Urban-Periurban Gradient
Sustainability 2019, 11(3), 645; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11030645
Received: 29 December 2018 / Revised: 16 January 2019 / Accepted: 22 January 2019 / Published: 26 January 2019
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (1427 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text | Supplementary Files
Abstract
Urbanization by densification is globally increasing and endangers maintenance of urban green and associated social-ecological systems. Cultural ecosystem services play a crucial role in human well-being, especially in urban areas. We analyzed perceived importance of cultural ecosystem services provided by green space in [...] Read more.
Urbanization by densification is globally increasing and endangers maintenance of urban green and associated social-ecological systems. Cultural ecosystem services play a crucial role in human well-being, especially in urban areas. We analyzed perceived importance of cultural ecosystem services provided by green space in Berlin along an urban-periurban gradient. Based on extensive pretests, we designed a standardized questionnaire and conducted 558 face-to-face interviews. B using multiple regressions and principal component analysis, we show that perceived importance of cultural ecosystem services and patterns of urban green use are affected by an urbanization gradient and associated changes in population density. Important cultural ecosystem services decreases in urban core areas with higher population density, whereas people in periurban areas with more available green spaces exhibit a greater valuation of nature. In contrast, social relations and cultural diversity had the highest importance in the urban core, while cultural heritage, education, natural awareness, recreation, and aesthetical appreciation were higher valued in the less populated periurban areas, suggesting two bundles of cultural ecosystem services. Full article
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Open AccessArticle A Framework for the Integration of Nature-Based Solutions into Environmental Risk Management Strategies
Sustainability 2019, 11(2), 489; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11020489
Received: 29 November 2018 / Revised: 10 January 2019 / Accepted: 16 January 2019 / Published: 18 January 2019
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Abstract
Mountainous areas are expected to face increasing societal pressure due to mass tourism and the rising intensity and frequency of natural hazards triggered by climate change. Therefore, the development of proper strategies for the management of environmental risks will be crucial to ensure [...] Read more.
Mountainous areas are expected to face increasing societal pressure due to mass tourism and the rising intensity and frequency of natural hazards triggered by climate change. Therefore, the development of proper strategies for the management of environmental risks will be crucial to ensure their liveability. Against this backdrop, concepts such as territorial resilience and Social–Ecological Systems (SES) can support the prioritisation of protective efforts. This paper presents a conceptual framework to be applied to areas subject to natural hazards. Its aim is to support the integration of different measures, with a special focus on protection forests and other Nature-based Solutions, into current risk management strategies. The framework considers (i) the definition of SES boundaries; (ii) the identification of the main goals to be achieved; (iii) the quantification of the supply and demand of the ecosystem protection service; and (iv) the development of risk management strategies able to include the management of protection forests among the adopted solutions. This framework is intended as a tool to be adopted by local and regional decision-makers as a tool to identify the areas at risk, to recognise the potential role of protection forests, and to operationalise the concept of resilience through the deployment of “grey-green” strategies. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Assessment of the Spatial Dynamics and Interactions among Multiple Ecosystem Services to Promote Effective Policy Making across Mediterranean Island Landscapes
Sustainability 2018, 10(9), 3285; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10093285
Received: 26 August 2018 / Revised: 8 September 2018 / Accepted: 11 September 2018 / Published: 14 September 2018
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (8206 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
To manage multiple ecosystem services (ES) effectively, it is essential to understand how the dynamics of ES maintain healthy ecosystems to avoid potential negative impacts on human well-being in the context of sustainable development. In particular, the Ionian Islands in the central Mediterranean [...] Read more.
To manage multiple ecosystem services (ES) effectively, it is essential to understand how the dynamics of ES maintain healthy ecosystems to avoid potential negative impacts on human well-being in the context of sustainable development. In particular, the Ionian Islands in the central Mediterranean are characterized by high natural, ecological, and recreational value; however, the intensification of human activities over time has resulted in the loss of natural ecosystems, which might have negatively impacted ES. Here, we aimed to assess and understand the spatiotemporal dynamics of ES supply and how these components interact across the Ionian Islands to optimize future ES provision and mitigate current trade-offs. We quantified multiple ecosystem services and analyzed their interactions at a temporal scale across the four prefectures of the Ionian Islands. Seven ES were quantified covering all three ES sections (provisioning, regulating and maintenance, and cultural) of the Common International Classification of Ecosystem Services (CICES). ES interactions were investigated by analyzing ES relationships, identifying ES bundles (sets of ES that repeatedly occur together across space and time), and specifying ES occurrence within bundles. The three ES groups exhibited similar patterns on some islands, but differed on islands with areas of high recreation in parallel to low provisioning and regulating ES. Temporal variations showed both stability and changes to the supply of ES, as well as in the interactions among them. Different patterns among the islands were caused by the degree of mixing between natural vegetation and olive orchards. This study identified seven ES bundles that had distinct compositions and magnitudes, with both unique and common bundles being found among the islands. The olive grove bundle delivered the most ES, while the non-vegetated bundle delivered negligible amounts of ES. Spatial and temporal variation in ES appear to be determined by agriculture, land abandonment, and increasing tourism, as well as the occurrence of fires. Knowledge about the spatial dynamics and interactions among ES could provide information for stakeholders and decision-making processes to develop appropriate sustainable management of the ecosystems on the Ionian Islands to secure ecological, social, and economic resilience. Full article
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