Recent publications from SEI York researchers

Posted on 13 November 2015

Building community resilience | Visualising social networks | Better mobility in cities

Below are the latest publications from SEI York

click here for a full list of al SEI publications

Building community resilience: can everyone enjoy a good life?

Authors: Cinderby, S., G. Haq, H. Cambridge, and K. Lock
In: Local Environment: The International Journal of Justice and Sustainability, online 5 November 2015

This paper describes lessons from the New Earswick Good Life Initiative, a participatory action research project to build community resilience in a low-income suburb of York, UK.

Initiatives to reduce community carbon emissions and foster sustainable lifestyles have had varying degrees of success. There is now a need for a re-energized, concerted and joined-up approach that places environmental issues in a wider context – one that improves quality of life while building community resilience. This involves enhancing the capacity of neighbourhoods to recover, respond and adapt to environmental and socio-economic changes.

This paper examines the experience gained in a participatory action research (PAR) study to build community resilience, where facilitators supported residents to take ownership of their own agendas. The New Earswick Good Life Initiative (GLI) was an 18-month project undertaken in a low-income suburb of York, UK. A range of approaches were used to identify activities which had the most potential to nurture resilience and foster a shift towards greater environmental sustainability.

The GLI highlighted how the introduction of new ideas not only needs to be locally relevant but also requires care and time in order for them to embed within community. Altering the way a community manages its environment involves transforming social relationships, strengthening institutions and influencing local power balances. Furthermore, it is necessary to build social capital, knowledge, leadership skills and support social networks to allow communities to effectively engage with relevant local and national policies. Only by providing opportunities to develop these resilient attributes can increased local responsibility be successful. The paper concludes by providing guidance on strengthening community resilience and delivering pro-environmental behaviour change.

Read the article (external link to journal)

Seeing the forest and the trees: Facilitating participatory network planning in environmental governance

Author: Hauck,J., C. Stein, Schiffer, E. and M. Vandewalle

In: Global Environmental Change Volume 35, November 2015, Pages 400–410

This paper draws on three case studies based on a SEI led study undertaken for the CGIAR Water, Land and Ecosystem Program (WLE). 

Governance processes to address environmental change involve many different actors from multiple spatial, temporal and socio-political scales, not all of whom are connected by hierarchy and whose actions cannot always be mandated. In the environmental governance literature, Social Network Analysis (SNA) has been found useful in understanding complex governance arrangements. This paper presents and reflects on the experience using the Net-Map tool for participatory network mapping. The Net-Map tool was applied in three transdisciplinary case studies for three different purposes: (a) to contribute to an improved understanding of biodiversity knowledge flows in Europe, (b) to explore the interplay between actors with influence on water, agriculture, and energy developments at the Blue Nile in Ethiopia, and (c) to understand the challenges facing stakeholders engaged in conservation and economic development in a Southeast Asian mountain range. 

The case studies explore how network maps can serve as boundary objects to engage stakeholders of diverse points of view and jointly design strategies to address governance challenges. More specifically they show how network maps are used to gain a better understanding of governance situations, to help stakeholders identify strategies for navigation of the complex networks in which they are embedded and to support transdisciplinary research processes. The article reflects on the potential and limitations of the Net-Map tool in facilitating multi-stakeholder processes and disentangling complex governance arrangements.

Read the article
 (External link to website - can be downloaded for free until until December 18, 2015)

Read the WLE related publication (External link).

Mobility :A New Urban Design and Transport Planning Philosophy for a Sustainable Future

Author: John Whitelegg

This book sets out exactly what can be done to convert all towns and cities into attractive places in which to live and work.

John Whitelegg argues for a complete  transformation of how transport planning, as well as urban and rural planning, is dealt with in the UK citing best practice examples from other countries such as Zurich and Vienna's public transport system and Sweden's Vision Zero policy which has the aim of zero deaths and zero serious injuries in the road traffic environment.  He also emphasises the importance of dealing with air pollution from traffic sources which kills over 40,000 each year in Britain and concludes that this is a massive failure of public policy and can and must be reduced to zero.

The book presents a very different argument to the ones normally seen where local authorities and campaign groups try to increase walking and cycling. He suggests that whilst there is still scope to increase these very healthy and inexpensive means of moving around but only if we have serious polices to reduce traffic volume, create car-free streets and residential areas and have a total 20mph speed limit on all streets where people live. 

The need to reduce traffic volumes and traffic speeds is described in some detail and the book illustrates how this can be done on a short time scale and by following an  inexpensive policy pathway.  Traditional transport policy that does not focus seriously on traffic reduction is very expensive and the alternatives are much better for reducing the costs of running cities. 

E-Book available online.

Exploring the Links between Post-Industrial Landscape History and Ecology through Participatory Methods 

Authors: Rich, K.J., M. Ridealgh, S.E. West, S. Cinderby and M. Ashmore
In: PLoS ONE 10(8), e0136522

This article highlights the role local knowledge can play in improving ecological interpretation of former mining sites which can then enhance future management plans to protect biodiversity.

There is increasing recognition of the importance for local biodiversity of post-mining sites, many of which lie near communities that have suffered significant social and economic deprivation as the result of mine closures. However, no studies to date have actively used the knowledge of local communities to relate the history and treatment of post-mining sites to their current ecological status.

This paper presents a study of two post-mining sites in the Yorkshire coalfield of the UK in which the local community were involved in developing site histories and assessing plant and invertebrate species composition. Site histories developed using participatory GIS revealed that the sites had a mixture of areas of spontaneous succession and technical reclamation, and identified that both planned management interventions and informal activities influenced habitat heterogeneity and ecological diversity.

Two groups of informal activity were identified as being of particular importance. Firstly, there has been active protection by the community of flower-rich habitats of conservation value (e.g. calcareous grassland) and distinctive plant species (e.g. orchids) which has also provided important foraging resources for butterfly and bumblebee species. Secondly, disturbance by activities such as use of motorbikes, informal camping, and cutting of trees and shrubs for fuel, as well as planned management interventions such as spreading of brick rubble, has provided habitat for plant species of open waste ground and locally uncommon invertebrate species which require patches of bare ground.

This study demonstrates the importance of informal, and often unrecorded, activities by the local community in providing diverse habitats and increased biodiversity within a post-mining site, and shows that active engagement with the local community and use of local knowledge can enhance ecological interpretation of such sites and provide a stronger basis for successful future management.

Read the article
(external link to open-access journal) 

Hydrologically driven ecosystem processes determine the distribution and persistence of ecosystem-specialist predators under climate change

Authors: Carroll, M.J., A. Heinemeyer, J.W. Pearce-Higgins, P. Dennis, C. West, J. Holden, Z.E. Wallage and C.D. Thomas
In: Nature Communications, 6, Art. 7851

This article describes a peatland process model developed to show the processes and food chains that combine to influence the population performance of species in British blanket bogs.

Climate change has the capacity to alter physical and biological ecosystem processes, jeopardizing the survival of associated species. This is a particular concern in cool, wet northern peatlands that could experience warmer, drier conditions.

Here the authors show that climate, ecosystem processes and food chains combine to influence the population performance of species in British blanket bogs. Their peatland process model accurately predicts water-table depth, which predicts abundance of craneflies (keystone invertebrates), which in turn predicts observed abundances and population persistence of three ecosystem-specialist bird species that feed on craneflies during the breeding season.

Climate change projections suggest that falling water tables could cause 56–81% declines in cranefly abundance and, hence, 15–51% reductions in the abundances of these birds by 2051–2080.

The authors conclude that physical (precipitation, temperature and topography), biophysical (evapotranspiration and desiccation of invertebrates) and ecological (food chains) processes combine to determine the distributions and survival of ecosystem-specialist predators.

Read the article (external link to open-access journal)

Read a feature story about this research (external link to University of York)