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Research article, 2007

Measuring social-ecological dynamics behind the generation of ecosystem services

Andersson, Erik; Barthel, Stephan; Ahrné, Karin


The generation of ecosystem services depends on both social and ecological features. Here we focus on management, its ecological consequences, and social drivers. Our approach combined (1) quantitative surveys of local species diversity and abundance of three functional groups of ecosystem service providers (pollinators, seed dispersers, and insectivores) with (2) qualitative studies of local management practices connected to these services and their underlying social mechanisms, i.e., institutions, local ecological knowledge, and a sense of place. It focused on the ecology of three types of green areas (allotment gardens, cemeteries, and city parks) in the city of Stockholm, Sweden. These are superficially similar but differ considerably in their management. Effects of the different practices could be seen in the three functional groups, primarily as a higher abundance of pollinators in the informally managed allotment gardens and as differences in the composition of seed dispersers and insectivores. Thus, informal management, which is normally disregarded by planning authorities, is important for ecosystem services in the urban landscape. Furthermore, we suggest that informal management has an important secondary function: It may be crucial during periods of instability and change as it is argued to promote qualities with potential for adaptation. Allotment gardeners seem to be the most motivated managers, something that is reflected in their deeper knowledge and can be explained by a sense of place and management institutions. We propose that co-management would be one possible way to infuse the same positive qualities into all management and that improved information exchange between managers would be one further step toward ecologically functional urban landscapes.


ecosystem services; functional groups; institutions; local ecological; institutions; sense of place; urban ecology; management; knowledge

Published in

Ecological Applications
2007, number: 17
Publisher: Ecological Society of America

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