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Regional sustainability: How useful are current tools of sustainability assessment at the regional scale?


  • Graymore, Michelle L.M.
  • Sipe, Neil G.
  • Rickson, Roy E.


Sustainability assessment methods are primarily aimed at global, national or state scales. However, modelling sustainability at finer spatial scales, such as the region, is essential for understanding and achieving sustainability. Regions are emerging as an essential focus for sustainability researchers, natural resource managers and strategic planners working to develop and implement sustainability goals. This paper evaluates the effectiveness of current sustainability assessment methods - ecological footprint, wellbeing assessment, ecosystem health assessment, quality of life and natural resource availability - at the regional scale. Each of these assessment methods are tested using South East Queensland (SEQ) as a case study. It was selected because of its ecological and demographic diversity, its combination of coastal and land management issues, and its urban metropolitan and rural farm and non-farm communities. The applicability of each of these methods to regional assessment was examined using an evaluation criteria matrix, which describes the attributes of an effective method and the characteristics that make these methods useful for regional management and building community capacity to progress sustainability. We found that the methods tested failed to effectively measure progress toward sustainability at the regional scale, demonstrating the need for a new method for assessing regional sustainability.

Suggested Citation

  • Graymore, Michelle L.M. & Sipe, Neil G. & Rickson, Roy E., 2008. "Regional sustainability: How useful are current tools of sustainability assessment at the regional scale?," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 67(3), pages 362-372, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:67:y:2008:i:3:p:362-372

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Reed, Mark S. & Fraser, Evan D.G. & Dougill, Andrew J., 2006. "An adaptive learning process for developing and applying sustainability indicators with local communities," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 59(4), pages 406-418, October.
    2. Alison Todes, 2004. "Regional planning and sustainability: limits and potentials of South Africa's integrated development plans," Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 47(6), pages 843-861.
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    Cited by:

    1. Michelle M. Olivier & Benjamin P. Wilson & Jonathon L. Howard, 2016. "Measuring Localisation Regionally to Form a Bhutanese Index," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 8(7), pages 1-19, July.
    2. repec:eee:jrpoli:v:52:y:2017:i:c:p:405-417 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Petra Wächter & Michael Ornetzeder & Harald Rohracher & Anna Schreuer & Markus Knoflacher, 2012. "Towards a Sustainable Spatial Organization of the Energy System: Backcasting Experiences from Austria," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 4(2), pages 1-17, February.
    4. von Wirth, Timo & Wissen Hayek, Ulrike & Kunze, Antje & Neuenschwander, Noemi & Stauffacher, Michael & Scholz, Roland W., 2014. "Identifying urban transformation dynamics: Functional use of scenario techniques to integrate knowledge from science and practice," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 89(C), pages 115-130.
    5. Ferng, Jiun-Jiun, 2014. "Nested open systems: An important concept for applying ecological footprint analysis to sustainable development assessment," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 106(C), pages 105-111.
    6. Mioara, BORZA, 2016. "The Sustainability Dashboard: An Appraisal Tool For Business Area Competitiveness," Contemporary Economy Journal, Constantin Brancoveanu University, vol. 1(2), pages 5-12.
    7. repec:gam:jsusta:v:10:y:2018:i:8:p:2950-:d:164612 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Graymore, M.L.M. & Sipe, Neil G. & Rickson, Roy E., 2010. "Sustaining Human Carrying Capacity: A tool for regional sustainability assessment," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(3), pages 459-468, January.
    9. Lähtinen, Katja & Myllyviita, Tanja & Leskinen, Pekka & Pitkänen, Sari K., 2014. "A systematic literature review on indicators to assess local sustainability of forest energy production," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 40(C), pages 1202-1216.
    10. Wood, Richard & Garnett, Stephen, 2010. "Regional sustainability in Northern Australia --A quantitative assessment of social, economic and environmental impacts," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(9), pages 1877-1882, July.
    11. Wallis, Anne M. & Graymore, Michelle L.M. & Richards, Anneke J., 2011. "Significance of environment in the assessment of sustainable development: The case for south west Victoria," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(4), pages 595-605, February.
    12. repec:gam:jsusta:v:10:y:2018:i:9:p:3070-:d:166380 is not listed on IDEAS
    13. James K. Lein, 2014. "Toward a Remote Sensing Solution for Regional Sustainability Assessment and Monitoring," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 6(4), pages 1-20, April.
    14. van Zeijl-Rozema, Annemarie & Ferraguto, Ludovico & Caratti, Pietro, 2011. "Comparing region-specific sustainability assessments through indicator systems: Feasible or not?," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(3), pages 475-486, January.
    15. Michelle L. M. Graymore, 2014. "Sustainability Reporting: An Approach to Get the Right Mix of Theory and Practicality for Local Actors," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 6(6), pages 1-26, May.
    16. Chenyu Lu & Chunjuan Wang & Weili Zhu & Hengji Li & Yongjin Li & Chengpeng Lu, 2015. "GIS-Based Synthetic Measurement of Sustainable Development in Loess Plateau Ecologically Fragile Area—Case of Qingyang, China," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 7(2), pages 1-19, February.
    17. repec:eee:appene:v:227:y:2018:i:c:p:465-479 is not listed on IDEAS
    18. Wächter, Petra, 2013. "Aspekte einer nachhaltigen Energiezukunft (ITA-manu:script 13-03)," ITA manu:scripts 13_03, Institute of Technology Assessment (ITA).
    19. Yigang Wei & Cui Huang & Patrick T. I. Lam & Yong Sha & Yong Feng, 2015. "Using Urban-Carrying Capacity as a Benchmark for Sustainable Urban Development: An Empirical Study of Beijing," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 7(3), pages 1-25, March.
    20. Anna Maltseva, 2016. "System of dynamic norms as a basis for sustainable development management of territories of innovative development," Journal of Global Entrepreneurship Research, Springer;UNESCO Chair in Entrepreneurship, vol. 6(1), pages 1-27, December.


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