Inviting Landscapes: resilience through engaging citizens with urban nature

UoM administered thesis: Phd


The role of citizens working with urban nature in making cities more resilient is under-explored and under-theorised. The social-ecological system (SES) is an appropriate concept to explore these interactions but challenges in applying it to cities have been identified. It has been suggested that there is a need to strengthen the 'social' in the SES. This thesis develops a conceptual framework that splits the social component of the SES into culture and agency and operationalises it through the concept of landscape. Previous scholarship has demonstrated that landscape is a powerful force in how people think about the world and that citizens are increasingly active in transforming urban landscapes. Using a critical realist framework, the SES is approached as an underlying mechanism that can only be apprehended through the landscapes that it produces. This directs attention to people's experience of and responses to landscape. Three 'layers' of landscape are elucidated: the material landscape, the cultural landscape and responses to the landscape, drawing on the disciplines of landscape ecology, cultural geography and others concerned with environmental perception and people-environment interactions. The research surveyed citizen interaction with landscapes across North West England before focusing in on two key case studies in the city of Manchester. This analysis gave rise to development of a new concept, the Inviting Landscape, to describe landscapes that invite citizens to engage with them in ways that enhance the resilience of the underlying SES. The thesis identifies characteristics of Inviting Landscapes and links them to three stages of citizen engagement with landscapes. Potential practical applications of this characterisation of landscapes are discussed. Intellectually, the SES approach is enhanced through a deeper understanding of positive feedback mechanisms whereby landscapes influence citizen-nature interactions, which in turn impact on social-ecological resilience. The thesis concludes by making the case that attending more carefully to the role of culture and agency can strengthen the applicability of the SES approach to cities.


Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date1 Aug 2015