Governing cities reflexively-The biocultural diversity concept as an alternative to ecosystem services

Marleen Buizer*, Birgit Elands, Kati Vierikko

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

65 Citations (Scopus)


With the aim to embed ecology more forcefully into decision-making, the concept of Ecosystems Services (ES) has gained significant ground among policy-makers and researchers. The increasing recognition of the importance of urban green areas for the quality of life in growing cities has led proponents of ES approaches to argue for an uptake of the approach in urban environmental decision-making. However, the ES approach has been criticized for standing too much at a distance from local communities and their day-to-day practices and for insufficiently taking into account the potential trade-offs between different qualities or preferences. In this paper we argue that other concepts, doing other work, need to be added to the debate about futures of urban governance and research. Biocultural diversity is suggested as one such alternative concept. By its emphasis on diversity, biocultural diversity can account for the many ways in which people live with green areas in the urban landscape, acknowledges the different knowledges this involves, and can reveal conflicts and ambivalence that may be at stake. This sets up for a reflexive, transdisciplinary research process that questions and contextualizes knowledge and worldviews including those of researchers. A reflexive, transdisciplinary research, then, is a productive catalyst for forms of reflexive urban governance that recognise and respond to this diversity and provide platforms for contestation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7-13
JournalEnvironmental Science & Policy
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2016


  • Biocultural diversity
  • Ecosystem services
  • Reflexive governance
  • Transdisciplinarity
  • Urban planning


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