Is Ensuring the Sustainable Implementation of BGI Possible? System Thinking of Urban Rivers as Social-Ecological Systems

In Blue-Green Infrastructure across Asian Countries: Improving Urban Resilience and Sustainability
Chapter: 5
Book Chapter
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With the mounting pressure of urbanization, how innovative blue-green infrastructure (BGI) can restore the ecosystem services of urban rivers is a timely issue for any densely populated city seeking to improve its resilience and sustainability through ecosystem-based solutions. Yet, the implementation of BGI is not hazard-free. Its success usually depends on a variety of contextual attributes.

By discussing field research on two urban streams in southern Taiwan, this chapter adopts a system thinking perspective to explore, evaluate, and search for the combination of contextual attributes that not only enables the development of sustainable urban rivers but also improves the resilience of cities. In particular, to understand the macro system behavior and the problem of social-ecological misfit are the analytical focuses of this study. By analyzing the mental models of two urban river cases, this study identifies three misfit problems pertaining to the contextual attributes that can inhibit BGI-induced urban sustainability in the long run: (1) the problem of missing feedback, (2) the problem of trade-offs, and (3) the lack of systematic resilience strategies. The advantage of using a system thinking approach is that it allows for the holistic implementation of BGI while reminding policymakers and researchers of the need to craft BGI strategies in connection with, rather than in isolation from, social, economic, and political environments. This study also demonstrates the importance of being aware of the dynamic relationship between resource users, public infrastructure providers, public infrastructure, and resource systems.