SERUS: Building Socio-Ecological Resilience through Urban Green, Blue and White Space

More than 80% of the Arctic population is living in 110 cities. Open space converts a settlement to a location with sense-of-place and values. Green (vegetated) and blue (water) spaces, being the areas of public attraction, recreation and eco-services, make cities livable. We consider green, blue and white space along with built-up areas as components of an interconnected socio-environmental (urban) ecosystem.

 

Objectives

The project's objective is to collect new data and knowledge, to gain skills and expertise, to exchange this knowledge with local communities, integrate diverse data using innovative data fusion technology and to create holistic understanding of urban open space in the Arctic cities.

Project Summary

The project “Building Socio-Ecological Resilience through Urban Green, Blue and White Space (SERUS)” is an initiative to improve several aspects of the Arctic urban resilience. It seeks to advance a cross-disciplinary climate-ecology-policy (CEP) approach in creating the Arctic urban resilience. The main objective of the project is to collect data and knowledge, to gain skills and expertise, to exchange this knowledge with local communities, to integrate the resilience indicators and to create holistic understanding of urban open space in the Arctic cities.

Small and remote, the Arctic cities are not high in their national governmental agendas. Meanwhile, as the Arctic is climbing on geopolitical and resource supply ladder, sustainability of the urban settlements becomes an influential issue. Now more than 80% of the pan-Arctic population is leaving in 110 urban settlements where 70% of dwellers are migrants from southern climate zones and their connections to local and indigenous knowledge (LIK) are weak. The Arctic cities were and still are the outposts isolated from harsh climate and fragile northern nature. Understanding the role of open space in urban resilience is extremely limited. Such attitudes must be changed if resilience issues are seriously addressed. 

We focus on open space in four Arctic cities: Longyearbyen (Norway), Apatity and Nadym (Russia), Fairbanks (USA). Open space converts a settlement to a location with sense-of-place and cultural values of landscapes, ecosystems and climates. Green (vegetated) and blue (water) spaces, being the areas of public attraction, recreation and eco-services, make cities livable. Novelty of the project is that we will consider the white space, which covers the Arctic for 8-9 months a year. We consider green, blue and white space along with built-up areas as components of an interconnected socio-environmental (urban) ecosystem. 

In this project, we continue observations of urban meteorology, ecology and soils. Uniqueness of this project is that we aim to obtain knowledge about future shifts of Arctic ecosystems from observations using the Arctic urban heat islands as a “time machine”. The cities have substantially warmer climate making them unique laboratory to observe “future” environmental changes. We are building here on the Belmont Forum CRA-I project “Anthropogenic Heat Islands in the Arctic: Windows to the Future of the Regional Climates, Ecosystems, and Societies” that documented the urban anomalies, alternative ecosystems and societal shifts, but did not consider them in the context of resilience.

We will expand, combine and open the data in the Urban Heat Island Arctic Research Campaign (UHIARC) dataset and on the project web site. But we add here the field research on urban social fabric: studies of LIK and migration; interviews with people and stakeholders; documentation of traditional ways to exist in the cold environment. Contributing towards infrastructure resilience, we will investigate the impact of new local materials (diatomites) and the urban air quality issues in foreseen scenarios of urban development. We plan 2-3 field campaigns in each of our cities, except Longyearbyen where we have established the permanent access to data and dialog with stakeholders. We approach these tasks with an international, cross-disciplinary consortium that includes: (1) Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Centre (NERSC in Norway; coordinator) working with urban climate change, remote sensing, and data fusion technologies; (2) George Washington University (GWU in USA) – Arctic local and indigenous knowledge, social science, urban culture and migration processes, urban policy and decision-making; (3) Tyumen State University (UTMN in Russia) – Arctic ecosystems, permafrost, urban and infrastructure resilience. This international collaboration will allow for the holistic and regionwide study of open space-resilience issues in both maritime and continental Arctic climates. The consortium is highly complementary. The physical climate and resilience issues are within the NERSC and UTMN areas of expertise. The social and cultural issues are in GWU and partly UTMN, whereas urban planning, data management and infrastructure issues are within the expertise of all three partners.

We target natural resilience elements through novel technologies of data collection, data fusion and analysis. We will document parallel changes observed in urban, disturbed and pristine (natural backgrounds) types of open land-use/land-cover spaces. This work will allow for reconstruction of the micro-scale meteorological-land cover variability and establishing links between this variability, carbon flux, turbulent fluxes and proxy socio-environmental indicators. Thus, perhaps for the first time, we will directly address the gap in scales of resilience actions and available data

We target social and cultural resilience elements through studies of “people-place” connections and social differentiation by culture, gender and age. We will explore the existing concepts of “pristine landscape” and “wild nature” as identified by anthropologists and look for cultural and social practices that reinforce resilience. Thus, perhaps for the first time, we will consider LIK and indigenous resilience in the urban context

We target knowledge assets through convergence of formalized scientific knowledge with LIK and close collaboration with local stakeholders. We will study socio-environmental interactions using multiple diverse geo-distributed data sets. Thus, perhaps for the first time, we will implement data fusion methods in mapping multiple resilience indicators.

We target infrastructure resilience through quantification of the anthropogenic heat flux in cities. This work includes the flux estimation and the assessment of its long-term environmental impact as well as a study of new construction materials (diatomites) with better insolation properties which can reduce the flux and maintain frozen soil stability. Thus, perhaps for the first time, we will propose urban planning strategy that includes open space and anthropogenic flux es components of resilience.

The project will engage the academic and stakeholder communities. To push for the larger and lasting impact, we will format our results in a set of discusses utilizing our visual, mapping, narrative and quantitative materials. Stakeholders will propose scenarios of open space to the discuss and will provide feedback on the recommendations.

All project results and impersonalized data will be in the open access domain and available to the users in nearly real time. All peer-review publications will in open access complying with the European Plan S. All reports will be issued as the NERSC technical reports with DOI and permanent access at www.nersc.no

 
Project Details
Acronym: 
SERUS
Funding Agency: 
Research Council of Norway
NERSC Principal Investigator: 
Igor Ezau
Project Deputy Leader at NERSC: 
Victoria Miles
Coordinating Institute: 
Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Center
Project Status: 
Ongoing