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A balancing act in urban social-ecology: human appreciation, ponds and dragonflies

Abstract

Green spaces in cities provide cultural ecosystems services (CES) such as nature connection, wildlife interaction and aesthetic appreciation which can improve aspects of human well-being. Recognising these benefits, researchers are now examining the complex relationship between humans and nature in urban social-ecology. Most studies investigate people’s appreciation and valuation of different green space features and their contribution to urban biodiversity. Recommendations arising from such studies are best practices to achieve a balance between landscape aesthetic and ecological objectives, but many knowledge gaps still exist. In a social-ecological project in Greater London, appreciation of ponds and dragonflies in urban green spaces, and the environmental factors determining dragonfly diversity were investigated. We found ponds and their appearance were valued by people as enhancing their green space experience. The preference for wild-looking ponds was moderate. Dragonflies were enjoyed for their colour and high visibility, especially by those who had basic dragonfly knowledge. Species richness of dragonflies was positively associated with habitat heterogeneity in and around a pond. However, people were unable to relate a heterogeneous pond to more dragonfly species. For the first time, some factors that influence the human appreciation-ponds-dragonflies (HPD) relationship in an urban context are revealed. To fully realise the CES potential of ponds and dragonflies in Greater London, a HPD framework is proposed. The framework underpins strategies that foster cultural sustainability for ponds and dragonfly conservation.

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Abbreviations

AOB:

Absence of buildings within 100 m of pond

CBD:

Convention on Biological Diversity

CES:

Cultural ecosystem services

EM:

Presence of emergent macrophytes

EM > 50%:

Emergent macrophytes >50% of pond

FM:

Presence of floating macrophytes

FM > 50%:

Floating macrophytes >50% of pond

GiGL:

Greenspace Information for Greater London

GLM:

Generalised linear model

HPD:

Human appreciation-ponds-dragonflies

ICREC:

The Imperial College Research Ethics Committee

IUCN:

International Union for Conservation of Nature

LGS:

Presence of long grass/shrubs within 100 m of pond

LNHS:

London Natural History Society

NEE > 50%:

Pond margin >50% natural earth embankment

SM:

Presence of submerged macrophytes

SM > 50%:

Submerged macrophytes >50% of pond

TAP:

Presence of trees around pond

UK:

United Kingdom

VI:

Presence of vegetated island in pond

WA:

Presence of wooded areas within 100 m of pond

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Acknowledgements

The following persons (in no particular order) were generous with their advice, support and inspirational discussion: Albert G. Orr, Raynald H. Lemelin, Philip James, Chloe Smith, Stephen J. Brooks, Mike Averill, members of the British Dragonfly Society, managers of the 12 green spaces surveyed, and the 360 wonderful interviewees who permitted the first author briefly into their lives.

This research is part of a Master of Science course in the Centre for Environmental Policy of Imperial College London funded by the Ministry of National Development EDGE Scholarship (Singapore) and the Chevening Scholarship (United Kingdom).

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Correspondence to Robin Wen Jiang Ngiam.

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Ngiam, R.W.J., Lim, W.L. & Matilda Collins, C. A balancing act in urban social-ecology: human appreciation, ponds and dragonflies. Urban Ecosyst 20, 743–758 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11252-016-0635-0

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Keywords

  • Urban social-ecology
  • Cultural ecosystem services
  • Parks
  • Ponds
  • Dragonflies