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Environmental justice and ecosystem services: Access, equity and participation in the use and management of aquatic environments in the Helsinki region (ENJUSTESS)

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Basic project information


The objective of ENJUSTESS is to explore the interconnections of environmental justice and ecosystem services with a novel focus on urban aquatic environments – or "blue infrastructure" – and cultural ecosystem services. ENJUSTESS focuses on non-extractive, cultural aquatic ecosystem services directly related to aquatic environments in the Helsinki region. Water bodies include the Baltic Sea (the Gulf of Finland), lakes, fluvial environments (esp. River Vantaa), small urban surface waters (e.g. streams and ponds) and wetlands (including protected areas). At the outset of the project, cultural ecosystem services of interest include recreation activities (e.g. swimming, recreational fishing, canoeing) as well as aesthetic and landscape amenities (e.g. relaxation, stress recovery) – but the uses and needs for aquatic environments are also addressed as an empirical problem in the research project.

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The main research question of ENJUSTESS is: How is environmental justice realised in the distribution, use and management of aquatic environments in the Helsinki region? Answering the question relies on theoretical and empirical research objectives, which are further addressed through three complementary thematic fields to specify the main research question and to provide rich, multi-faceted answers.

The empirical research in the project has three thematic objectives: mapping patterns of environmental justice, tracking dynamic change and conflict, and understanding and designing governance responses.

Theme 1: Mapping patterns of justice (particularly WP1 and WP4), focuses on the basic, distributive element of environmental justice. It entails mapping aquatic environments, related ecosystem services, their uses, user groups, including users' perceptions – and analysing the distributive dimension of environmental justice in terms of access and equity.

Theme 2: Tracking dynamic pressures and conflicts (particularly WP1 and WP3), concentrates on the dynamics of the processes underlying ecosystem services and environmental justice, including environmental change, urban development and related socio-economic trends. Pressures to be studied include population growth and demographic trends, urban development and shoreline closure, water quality issues (e.g. hygienic quality and blue-green algae bloom) and underlying environmental change dynamics, changes in patterns of use and institutions (e.g. municipal services) in urban areas.

Theme 3: Designing governance responses (particularly in WP2 and WP5), tackles the role of governance instruments, especially urban planning and related legislation, and how they deal with environmental justice and ecosystem services. This theme includes both descriptive and prescriptive elements addressing both the current state of governance instruments and proposals for their development.


Innovative and Interdisciplinary Methods

The project integrates quantitative and qualitative data and methods including GIS and softGIS analyses, field studies, case study analyses, comparative law and institutional analysis (focus on Maritime Spatial Planning) as well as interviews with residents, planning professionals and stakeholders. Data will be collected on both selected case areas (Sibbesborg, Sipoo; Meri-Rastila, Helsinki) and over the entire Helsinki region.

Expected Outcomes

The research pursues to establish environmental justice as a legitimate concern among urban policy stakeholders as well as to highlight the significance of the novel blue structure concept and related cultural ecosystem services as a current concern for urban planning and governance. The results will include evidence-based information on how blue structure and related cultural ecosystem services may be established in an equitable and just manner in urban planning and how related conflicts can be minimized by good planning and governance practices.

ENJUSTESS Workpackages

WP1: Knowledge integration and data management

Objective: WP1 takes stock of existing research, integrates knowledge and data from both the research consortium partners and external stakeholders and thus provides a basis for a case study site selection and for further analysis and comparisons in WP2, WP3, WP4 and WP5.

Method: Knowledge integration proceeds in the form of stocktaking of available research results data management. The data available for the project will be integrated, as far as possible, in a GIS-system where the data can be integrated and analyzed. The WP4 softGIS survey results are analysed jointly between the WPs and, together with WP2 GIS data. The datasets communicates with our partners' data on social segregation and Finns' recreation habits. This multilayer collection of data base can be analyzed at different scales, which guarantees the applicability of results. Meetings will be organized at an early stage of the project for the integration of ongoing research and available data. The meetings will provide a nucleus for broader stakeholder co-operation in the project.

WP2: Environmental justice and blue structure in urban development

Objective: WP2 has two objectives: 1) it analyses the accessibility of water-related cultural ecosystem services in a socioeconomic context in the Helsinki region as well as the impact of future pressure trends on the accessibility of blue structure; 2) It analyses the role and status of blue structure in urban development and planning and examines the realisation of environmental justice in relevant governance processes. WP2 serves as a link between the other work packages and deepens the analyses on the realisation of equality basing on the interdisciplinary research data obtained during the project.

Main research questions:

  1. How accessible are water and onshore areas to residents in different neighbourhoods, of different social groups and of different phases of life course taking into account the annual seasonal variation in recreational uses? Does accessibility vary according to the type of recreational use?
  2. Which are the most important barriers to accessibility of urban blue structure? How are future pressure trends likely to impact the use and accessibility of urban blue structure in the Helsinki region? How can these be addressed in planning processes?
  3. What is the status of environmental justice and urban "blue structure" in Finnish planning practice? How is environmental justice realised in decision-making and planning processes concerning blue structure? How is public participation – an essential dimension of environmental justice – and political strengths of residents realised in these planning and governance processes?

Data and methods: WP2 uses selected case studies and qualitative data, GIS analysis methods as well as interviews of planning professionals. In addition, WP2 uses results generated by the other WP to answer its research questions. It serves as a link between the human-based and ecological research assembling their results under the notion of environmental justice. As the longest-running WP in the project, it has an integrative function in the project, contributing to WP6 (synthesis).

WP3: Socio-ecological linkages in small urban surface waters

Objective: The objective of this WP is to better understand the socio-ecological linkages in small urban surface waters, especially concerning the distribution of water-related cultural ecosystem services provided by urban stream and pond nature types. This work is linked to WP2 in providing understanding of the cultural ecosystem services provided by small "blue structure" areas in an urban setting.
Main research questions:

  1. What is the distribution, state and potential threats of small surface water related cultural ecosystem services in urban environments?
  2. How should these water ecosystems be managed and considered in urban planning in order to ensure their cultural ecosystem services provision?
  3. What is the relation between valuing these ecosystems and services they provide, their distribution and provision, and realisation of environmental justice?

Data and methods: Site-specific socio-ecological research will be conducted with an urban ecology perspective. Existing studies and data on small surface waters in general and in the Helsinki region, especially related to their ecological features, their use by residents, and pressures to such ecosystems and related cultural ecosystem services, will be reviewed. Expert, resident and other stakeholder interviews will be conducted in the Helsinki region by focusing on certain key surface water sites as case studies.

WP4: The uses and perceived qualities of urban water areas

Objective: The aim of this empirical study in the Helsinki region is to reveal the everyday practices and meanings of urban water areas in the local context and in the life of urban dwellers. In addition to the consideration of the relevant equity issues, the locality-based approach allows the analysis of urban structural and design characteristics in close connection with the experiential knowledge and everyday practices of different groups.

Main research questions:

  1. What relevant affordances can aquatic ecosystem services provide in an urban environment? Does their use and perceived value differ in various user groups? Are there conflicting uses/values?
  2. How are the affordances of ecosystem services distributed geographically? How does the accessibility of services vary? Does experiential diversity vary in regard to structural characteristics?
  3. What (possible) perceived health outcomes are related to the use of water-related cultural ecosystem services?

Data and methods: Large scale survey among Helsinki region dwellers will be realised using the awarded softGIS methodology. The internet-based softGIS methodology developed in Aalto University since 2005 relies on collecting, analysing and delivering soft, geocoded knowledge produced by the residents of a certain area. SoftGIS methodology is an advanced example of Public participation GIS (PPGIS). After data collection, also an interactive tool for the online analysis of data will be published for the use of other work packages of ENJUSTESS as well as for wider audience. Also complementary (walking-with) interviews will be arranged with interviewees selected mainly among softGIS survey participants.

Toppelundin_ranta _(Riina_Pelkonen)

WP5: Governance of aquatic ecosystem services

Objective: The aquatic environment is vital in offering multiple cultural ecosystem services and in enabling the existence of different water related interests. However, these interests are increasingly difficult to consolidate in the same space at the same time and this creates problems for the distribution, use and management of aquatic ecosystem services. Answering to this problem, the objective of WP5 is to explore governance tools for the management of water-related cultural ecosystem services in the Helsinki region, which emphasise a balance between economic development and environmental conservation and take into consideration questions of environmental justice such as maintaining, recognising and sharing of water-related cultural ecosystem services in an equitable manner.

Main research questions:

  1. What are the available governance mechanisms that can be used for consolidating different uses of the water-related cultural ecosystem services in the Helsinki region?
  2. How do these governance mechanisms provide for a) the consolidation of different conflicting interests, b) equitable sharing of water-related cultural ecosystem services and; c) participation in the sharing of water-related cultural ecosystem services?

Data and methods: Different planning systems developed for the management of water-related cultural ecosystem services are studied and compared. Mainly the focus is on Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP) systems, which have become important tools for achieving the goal of consolidating conflicting water related interests as they allow ’both high level of environmental protection and a wide range of human activities’. Particularly, the study will focus on existing MSP systems in the Netherlands and in Australia as they can provide a starting point for developing a planning system for urban water areas in Finland. Document analysis will be used in assessing evaluations made on the Dutch and the Australian MSP-systems. Methods of comparative law will be used in comparing the Dutch and the Australian MSP-systems and evaluating their applicability to the Finnish context of urban water areas.

WP6: Synthesis

WP6 synthesises the research results of the ENJUSTESS project. The outputs of WP6 include two joint scientific publications (in Finnish and English) in the form of Thematic Journal Issues. WP6 also incorporates contributions beyond the ENJUSTESS consortium from the ENJUSTESS international conference for this purpose. WP6 will also produce a set of concise policy briefs, drawing policy conclusions from the project and addressing decision-makers at local, regional, national and international (the Baltic Sea, EU) levels.

WP7: Outreach and dissemination

The project will organize a workshop on participatory GIS research, a PhD workshop, an international conference on environmental justice and ecosystem services in urban areas, and three regional/national stakeholder workshops for 1) urban planners, 2) residents and 3) policy makers. Hence, the project makes a deliberative effort to communicate findings in practical terms.

ENJUSTESS Consortium

The interdiciplinary ENJUSTESS consortium consists of the Finnish Environment Institute SYKE, University of Helsinki (Urban Ecology Research Group), Aalto University (YTK - Land Use Planning and Urban Studies Group) and University of Eastern Finland (Department of Law).

ENJUSTESS-konsortion muodostavat Suomen ympäristökeskus, Helsingin yliopisto, Aalto yliopisto ja Itä-Suomen yliopisto

More information

Project coordinator, Senior Researcher Lasse Peltonen,

Professor Jari Niemelä (WP3),

Professor Marketta Kyttä (WP4),

Professor Tuomas Kuokkanen (WP5),

Published 2013-05-02 at 12:53, updated 2016-11-08 at 14:49

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