Biocultural diversity in an urban context : An indicator-based decision support tool to guide the planning and management of green infrastructure

Gonçalves, Paula; Vierikko, Kati; Elands, Birgit; Haase, Dagmar; Catarina Luz, Ana; Santos-Reis, Margarida


Cities face growing challenges and urban greenspaces (UGS) play a key role in improving cities liveability. UGS are complex socio-ecological systems and evidence-based and context-sensitive tools are needed to assist planning and manage environmentally sound and socially inclusive UGS. In this paper, we propose an innovative indicator-based tool to operationalize the biocultural diversity (BCD) framework in urban contexts, deriving from its three conceptual layers – materialized, lived and stewardship. Indicators proposed are bundled in themes representing essential components when assessing and analyzing urban BCD from a contextual and sensitizing perspective. The set of indicators highlight key features of socio-cultural and ecological systems, theirs links and interactions, both material and non-material, to capture the essence of biocultural diversity at site-level. By offering a uniform scoring system with the possibility to set site-specific benchmarks, these can be used in any type of greenspace of any city, while allowing different communities/neighborhoods/city councils to embrace different approaches to meet their objectives towards larger scale goals. Twelve urban parks in Lisbon were used as a test-bed for the indicator-based tool and proved its feasibility to gather an overall snapshot of all parks and to demonstrate the possibility to deepen the study to only two parks uncovering self-exclusion processes that otherwise would have remained hidden. The BCD tool brings together essential information scattered over several quality and good practices assessment tools and protocols and, by including indicators specifically addressing governance and stewardship, offers a policy-driven instrument able to capture trade-offs and/or synergies between ecological, social and political domains.