Summary of new paper: expert survey on governance challenges for local biodiversity and ecosystem services

Post from Urban Green Diary

We have just had a paper published in Land Use Policy, which reports the findings of a global survey into expert perceptions of barriers to including biodiversity and ecosystem services thinking within policy and governance at the local level.

What is the key point of this paper?

The aim of the paper is to understand globally what the barriers are to integrating practices which support good biodiversity and ecosystem services (BES) across different sectors of policy and decision making. This is what we call biodiversity and ecosystem services ‘mainstreaming’. Respondents identified a lack of awareness of BES issues outside of environmental sectors, limited communication between government departments, and budgetary constraints as main barriers.

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What were the findings, and what is new or significant about them?

There have been quite a few surveys into expert views on barriers to mainstreaming biodiversity and ecosystem services into wider policy and governance at the city level. But views of people working in the Global South have been somewhat lacking in the research to date. Our paper fits into this gap by reporting responses from policy-makers, academics and civil society organisations working across six continents. One key finding – which reinforces what is already well known in a Global North context – is that political and institutional factors such as siloed approaches, where only those working in environmental sectors are aware of and engage with BES issues, and budget allocations can frustrate the spread of BES thinking. A second point we observed is that different sectors have different views on what ‘successful’ participation and engagement in decision making looks like for biodiversity and ecosystem services. Government respondents were more likely to say that there was adequate and effective participation compared to their academic and civil society counterparts. A third observation, raised by Global South respondents especially, is the potential for important cultural practices to have damaging effects on local biodiversity and ecosystem services.

Why is this research important?

Healthy ecosystems provide people with a range of benefits which can enhance our resilience to environmental change. In turn, there is evidence to suggest that biodiversity is an indicator of good ecosystem health. As cities come under increasing stress from climate change and urbanisation, understanding what the barriers are to practices which are supportive to biodiversity and ecosystem services – and identifying pathways to overcome these barriers – can provide a foundation for more sustainable futures in cities.

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How was the research conducted?

A survey was distributed to experts from local government (including environmental protection and planning sectors), academia, civil society organisations, and international organisations. The survey was directed towards those with knowledge and experience of working on BES issues across a breadth of country contexts. As well as quantitative statistical analysis, respondents were also able to provided qualitative comments. These comments gave valuable additional insights into the barriers and how to overcome them, and were included in the paper alongside the statistical analysis.

Who funded the research?

The research was funded by a Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (KAKEN) (2011–2013) held by Wan-Yu Shih during her time as a JSPS-United Nations University Postdoctoral Fellow.=

Full ciatation:

Shih, Wan-Yu, Mabon, Leslie, and Puppim de Oliveira, Jose (2019) ‘Assessing governance challenges of local biodiversity and ecosystem services: barriers identified by the expert community’ Land Use Policy DOI: 10.1016/j.landusepol.2019.104291

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