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Stockholm Urban Assessment (Sweden SU)

Contact Information

  • Johan Colding
    The International Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics
    The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
    Box 50005
    SE-104 05 Stockholm, Sweden.

Project Team and Institutions

  • Johan Colding1
  • Thomas Elmqvist2
  • Carl Folke1,2
  • Jakob Lundberg2
  • Karin Ahrné3
  • Erik Andersson2
  • Stephan Barthel2
  • Sara Borgström2
  • Andreas Duit4
  • Henrik Ernstsson2

1The International Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics, The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

2 Department of Systems Ecology, Stockholm University

3Centre for Transdisciplinary Environmental Research (CTM) Stockholm University

4Department of Ecology and Crop Production Science, Uppsala

The advisory committee consisted of: Peter Schantz of Stockholm University College of Physical Education and Sports and Stefan Lundberg of Swedish Museum of Natural History.

Funding for this assessment was provided by: The Swedish Research Council for Environment, Agricultural Sciences, and Spatial Planning and the Swedish Research Council. In-kind contributions were provided by the Centre for Transdisciplinary Environmental Research and the Department of Systems Ecology, Stockholm University.

Project Summary

Stockholm County consists of a total land and water area of 678,500 hectares, representing about 2% of the total land area of Sweden, and extending about 180 kilometers from north to south; 46% of the land area is forested, 18% is in agricultural use, 14% is settlement for human habitation, and 22% is in other land uses. Stockholm County has the largest population concentration in Sweden, with more than 1.8 million people, and is projected to grow to 2.4 million people within 30 years. Due to population increase and urban development, the region displays degradation of ecosystems, with a loss of both common and red listed species. The overall objectives of the Stockholm Urban assessment are to investigate how adaptive capacity can be built to better adapt to change and, more specifically, to find effective ways to manage urban ecosystem services. Stockholm Urban covers the greater metropolitan area of Stockholm and has at its center the Stockholm National Urban Park (NUP), a 2,700 hectare woodland area located adjacent to the inner city of Stockholm.

Assessment Approach

The urban assessment focuses on the provision of ecosystem services and functions and the support provided by green areas. The role of local users, their management practices, institutional arrangements, and local ecological knowledge in the use and management of unprotected green areas is investigated. Recreation represents an important ecosystem service generated by urban green areas, and it is estimated that NUP has 15 million visitors per year and that 97% of the urban population in Stockholm will visit one of the urban green areas once a year; 47% will make visits every week.

The main direct driver of ecosystem change analyzed is green area loss, which leads to loss of aesthetic, recreational, and cultural services that, in turn, may lead to reduced human health and well-being. The main indirect driver of change leading to green area loss is population growth, with the associated urban sprawl, drivers that are reinforced by economic growth, coupled with institutional mismatches for ecosystem management and a lack of understanding of ecological support functions.

The common response to mitigate the effects of green area and biodiversity loss has been ratification of conventions and development of new governmental policies, including establishment of nature reserves and national parks. Local public response also exists through interest groups that put pressure on authorities. Local stakeholders may also influence biodiversity management through their own land use and management practices. Linked to NUP alone, there are some 45 nongovernmental organizations representing 175,000 members that are loosely involved in green area management. The methods and tools used include GIS assessments, gap analysis, and modeling; statistical trends; and inventories of key stakeholder groups with accompanying interviews. Key supplemental sources include a physical regional development plan by the County Council (RUFS 2001), and a new government program of reserves coordinated by the County Administrative Board.

Results and Outputs

Main conclusions from the analyses are that, in order to sustain ecosystem services, spatial and temporal interactions of ecosystem processes have to be recognized, and that these interactions have to be mimicked an appropriate spatial and temporal scales for management and communication. Analyses also illustrate the great potential of management models of complex social-ecological systems, where scientific knowledge is combined with practices and knowledge that are generated among resource users locally in adaptive co-management processes. Successful co-management already exists in some parts of Stockholm County. For example, a wetland project known as ‘‘Tyreså-projektet’’ within a major system of lakes south of Stockholm aims to coordinate the lake management among six municipalities, and to handle upstream/downstream problems related to eutrophication. A major future aim will be to evaluate the prospects of introducing arenas of adaptive co-management to supplement the current management paradigm. Such arenas may be especially useful to establish around unprotected green areas managed by local stakeholders that promote ecological support functions. Co-management may also be useful in areas where protected areas exist and where locally managed green space may function as buffer zones and for management of weak links that connect larger green areas. A challenge in this context is to analyze management practices and local ecological knowledge among the locally evolved interest groups in order to strengthen their role in adaptive co-management processes and to engage them in monitoring and evaluation of outcomes from management projects.


  • Barthel S., J. Colding, T. Elmqvist, and C. Folke, in manuscript: Social-ecological interactions in the formation of an urban green area: Management implications for the Stockholm National Urban Park, Sweden.
  • Berkes, F., and C. Folke (eds.), 1998: Linking social and ecological systems. Management practices and social mechanisms for building resilience. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom.
  • Berkes, F., C. Folke, and J. Colding (eds.), 2003: Navigating Social-Ecological Systems: Building Resilience for Complexity and Change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom, 393 pp.
  • Colding, J., J. Lundberg, and C. Folke, in manuscript: A new look at urban green areas: Implications for physical planning and biodiversity management in urban settings.
  • Elmqvist, T, J. Colding, S. Barthel, S. Borgström, A. Duit, J. Lundberg, E. Andersson, K. Ahrné, H. Ernstsson, C. Folke, and J. Bengtsson, 2004: The dynamics of social-ecological systems in urban landscapes: Stockholm and the National Urban Park, Sweden. Ann NY Acad Sci 1023: 308–322.
  • Lundberg, J., E. Andersson, G. Cleary, and T. Elmqvist, in manuscript: Sustaining ecosystem capacity in urban landscapes: The functional role of mobile link species in oak forest regeneration.

The Stockholm Urban Assessment. This assessment is located within a circle with a radius of 20 km surrounding the most central parts of the city. The National Urban Park is located in the centre of this circle.

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