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Scale Mismatches in Management of Urban Landscapes

Sara T Borgström, Stockholm University, Department of Systems Ecology
Thomas Elmqvist, Stockholm University, Department of Systems Ecology
Per Angelstam, School of Forest Engineers, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
Christine Alfsen-Norodom, Columbia University/UNESCO Joint Program on Biosphere and Society


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Urban landscapes constitute the future environment for most of the world’s human population. An increased understanding of the urbanization process and of the effects of urbanization at multiple scales is, therefore, key to ensuring human well-being. In many conventional natural resource management regimes, incomplete knowledge of ecosystem dynamics and institutional constraints often leads to institutional management frameworks that do not match the scale of ecological patterns and processes. In this paper, we argue that scale mismatches are particularly pronounced in urban landscapes. Urban green spaces provide numerous important ecosystem services to urban citizens, and the management of these urban green spaces, including recognition of scales, is crucial to the well-being of the citizens. From a qualitative study of the current management practices in five urban green spaces within the Greater Stockholm Metropolitan Area, Sweden, we found that 1) several spatial, temporal, and functional scales are recognized, but the cross-scale interactions are often neglected, and 2) spatial and temporal meso-scales are seldom given priority. One potential effect of the neglect of ecological cross-scale interactions in these highly fragmented landscapes is a gradual reduction in the capacity of the ecosystems to provide ecosystem services. Two important strategies for overcoming urban scale mismatches are suggested: 1) development of an integrative view of the whole urban social–ecological landscape, and 2) creation of adaptive governance systems to support practical management.

Key words

management; scale mismatch; urban landscapes

Copyright © 2006 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087