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From Cascade to Bottom-Up Ecosystem Services Model: How Does Social Cohesion Emerge from Urban Agriculture?


  • Anna Petit-Boix

    () (Chair of Societal Transition and Circular Economy, University of Freiburg. Tennenbacher Str. 4, 79106 Freiburg i. Br., Germany
    Sostenipra, Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (ICTA), Unidad de excelencia «María de Maeztu» (MDM-2015-0552), Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), 08193 Bellaterra, Barcelona, Spain)

  • Defne Apul

    () (Department of Civil Engineering, The University of Toledo, 2801 W. Bancroft St., Toledo, OH 43606, USA)


Given the expansion of urban agriculture (UA), we need to understand how this system provides ecosystem services, including foundational societal needs such as social cohesion, i.e., people’s willingness to cooperate with one another. Although social cohesion in UA has been documented, there is no framework for its emergence and how it can be modeled within a sustainability framework. In this study, we address this literature gap by showing how the popular cascade ecosystem services model can be modified to include social structures. We then transform the cascade model into a bottom-up causal framework for UA. In this bottom-up framework, basic biophysical (e.g., land availability) and social (e.g., leadership) ecosystem structures and processes lead to human activities (e.g., learning) that can foster specific human attitudes and feelings (e.g., trust). These attitudes and feelings, when aggregated (e.g., social network), generate an ecosystem value of social cohesion. These cause-effect relationships can support the development of causality pathways in social life cycle assessment (S-LCA) and further our understanding of the mechanisms behind social impacts and benefits. The framework also supports UA studies by showing the sustainability of UA as an emergent food supplier in cities.

Suggested Citation

  • Anna Petit-Boix & Defne Apul, 2018. "From Cascade to Bottom-Up Ecosystem Services Model: How Does Social Cohesion Emerge from Urban Agriculture?," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 10(4), pages 1-13, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:gam:jsusta:v:10:y:2018:i:4:p:998-:d:138473

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Paola Clerino & Agnès Fargue-Lelièvre, 2020. "Formalizing Objectives and Criteria for Urban Agriculture Sustainability with a Participatory Approach," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 12(18), pages 1-16, September.

    More about this item


    cultural ecosystem services; benefits; emergent behavior; life cycle assessment; sustainability assessment;

    JEL classification:

    • Q - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics
    • Q0 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - General
    • Q2 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation
    • Q3 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Nonrenewable Resources and Conservation
    • Q5 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics
    • Q56 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environment and Development; Environment and Trade; Sustainability; Environmental Accounts and Accounting; Environmental Equity; Population Growth
    • O13 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Agriculture; Natural Resources; Environment; Other Primary Products


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