Jiayang Li's Dissertation Defense
Title: Novel nature-based solutions for climate change adaptation: understanding and expanding the role of community perception and everyday landscape experiences
Chair: Prof. Joan Nassauer
Cities worldwide are exploring nature-based solutions (NBS) for climate change adaptation and sustainable development. To innovatively use nature to tackle societal challenges, thinking around NBS increasingly focuses on practices that integrate engineering and technological components with natural processes. Such novel NBS are especially relevant in urban contexts where land is limited and environmental stressors such as disturbance and pollution are present. This dissertation calls attention to a rarely considered implication of novel NBS: they may introduce noticeable yet unfamiliar changes and affect how people perceive everyday urban landscapes. These perceptions can influence local community members' well-being and support for NBS adoption. A deeper understanding of community members' perceptions of novel NBS can inform their design, implementation, and assessment to realize more reliable and sustained community co-benefits.
This dissertation presents three key chapters that are prepared as journal articles.
Chapter 2 identifies everyday landscape experiences as an essential cultural ecosystem service and connects them with the social impacts of and local communities' support for NBS. Focusing on NBS managed by smart systems, it speculates their potential negative influences on everyday urban nature experiences and how to address this issue in NBS development. This chapter lays the conceptual basis for this dissertation.
Chapter 3 investigates how microscale landscape elements may affect community members' perceptions of novel NBS through the example of retention ponds where smart systems manage stormwater storage. It examines both the effects of individual microscale elements on perceptions of smart ponds and the interacting effects of water level and other elements affected by design choices.
Chapter 4 applies "risk as feelings" to consider how people perceive visible stormwater dynamics in everyday urban landscapes, including both uncontrolled localized flooding and intentional stormwater detention in NBS. It examines how experiences of localized flooding and other contextual and socio-demographic factors may affect perceived urban flood risks and the perceived safety of different NBS practices for stormwater management.
This dissertation connects different knowledge domains and employs quantitative social science methods to contribute to understanding public perception of novel NBS in everyday experiences. It demonstrates that community members' perceptions can be affected by what is perceivable and manageable in the landscape, as well as their lived experiences and socio-demographic characteristics. This work has implications for the planning, design, and management of novel NBS to better address community members' experiences and gain broader societal support.