A method for gauging landscape change as a prelude to urban watershed regeneration: The case of the Carioca river, Rio de Janeiro

Mônica Bahia Schlee, Kenneth R. Tamminga, Vera Regina Tangari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Natural systems undergo processes, flows, and rhythms that differ from those of urban sociocultural systems. While the former takes place over eras or many generations, the latter may occur within years or even months. Natural systems change includes no principle of intentional progress or enhancement of complexity. In contrast, sociocultural systems change occurs through inherited characteristics, learning, and cultural transmission [1]. Both are dynamic, heterogeneous, and vulnerable to regime shifts, and are inextricably linked. The interrelations among natural and anthropogenic factors affecting sustainability vary spatially and temporally. This paper focuses on landscape changes along the Carioca River valley in Rio de Janeiro, located in the Brazilian Neotropical Southeastern Region, and its implications for local urban sustainability. The study incorporates a transdisciplinary approach that integrates landscape ecology and urban morphology methodologies to gauge landscape change and assess social-ecological systems dynamics. The methodology includes a variety of landscape change assessments; including on-site landscape ecological, landscape morphology, biological and urbanistic surveys, to gauge urban watershed quality. It presents an adapted inventory for assessment of urban tropical rivers, Neotropical Urban Stream Visual Assessment Protocol(NUSVAP), and correlates the level of stream and rainforest integrity to local urbanenvironmental patterns and processes. How can urban regional land managers, plannersand communities work together to promote shifts toward more desirable configurationsand processes? An understanding of the transient behavior of social-ecological systems andhow they respond to change and disturbance is fundamental to building appropriatemanagement strategies and fostering resilience, regenerative capacity, and sustainabledevelopment in urban watersheds. The sociocultural patterns, processes and dynamics ofRio's hillsides suggest that increasing the multifunctionality, flexibility, adaptability andconnectivity of open spaces may influence carrying, adaptive and regenerative capacitiesof urban landscape systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2054-2098
Number of pages45
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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