The Eco-Techno Spectrum as a Frame for Interdisciplinary Urban Nature Governance Research

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"Green infrastructure (GI) development – or the explicit management of greenspaces to provide services – is increasing in US municipalities. However, despite technical optimism regarding benefits provided by GI, governance challenges create significant barriers to effective GI implementation and maintenance. This stems in part from the contested definition of GI as stakeholders place varied, oft-conflicting demands on the concept. This means GI consists of a mishmash of disparate facilities, from large-scale natural areas (at the wildland interface) to small-scale engineered bioswales (throughout the urban-to-rural gradient), all of which are designed, implemented, and maintained by organizations with different, sometimes conflicting, goals and missions. To make sense of GI management, I organize this variety along the Eco-Techno Spectrum, arranging facilities according to the proportion of biological components to human-made technological components. On the ‘eco’ end of the spectrum are remnant forests and floodplains where most components are biological; on the ‘techno’ end of the spectrum are engineered green roofs and permeable pavement where components are primarily human-made technologies. This spectrum allows for the combination of ecological and engineering data, which are usually siloed. Importantly, the Eco-Techno Spectrum provides a platform on which to analyze governance concerns. Across the spectrum, GI facilities are subject to different performance metrics, jurisdictions, asset classes, etc. While relatively simple, the Eco-Techno Spectrum is a powerful heuristic because it captures this socio-political diversity and links it to ecological and technical data in a single framework. Here, I show the Eco-Techno Spectrum’s utility to an interdisciplinary examination of urban governance."