Participatory Mapping of Biodiversity in Urban Waterways

Like other uses of Maptionnaire, this is a story of engaging with citizens to map values of the physical landscape. The focus of this particular application was community visioning of experiences with biodiversity in a currently degraded urban waterway, a task that is relevant to reviving urban waterways across the globe. I created a Maptionnaire survey for residents and hosted a field activity with local schoolchildren to share their perspectives on the future everyday life of Harrestrup Stream, running through the suburbs of Copenhagen, Denmark. 

Utilizing Participatory Techniques around Biodiversity

By using participatory techniques, we enable a human perspective of the local ecology to complement the traditional biodiversity assessment. But these processes are hard to quantify. In this case, mapping allowed the locals to pinpoint cultural values to physical features that are common ecological design techniques. Using a sample masterplan that proposes a revived stream scenario, I asked residents and children for their opinions on uses and experiences that various features might offer, i.e. vegetated space along its banks, in-stream elements, and free flowing water. This insight is a starting point for the creative process as well as feedback to a design.

The ability to sequence the survey from spatial markings on the map, to multiple choice responses and personal comments, allowed for a line to be drawn to personal attachments, a building block for stewardship. The residents could identify particular native species as a personal incentive for engaging in different ways of stewarding the waterway. A design team can find this to be helpful when organizing meaningful citizen engagement in production and ongoing management. In retrospect, the children’s involvement could have also been conducted with Maptionnaire, but the field activity allowed them to physically explore the focal area with species and their habitats in mind. Including both methods gave me experience in combining digital and in-person versions of participatory research. 

Figure 1. This application of participatory mapping essentially blends human and biodiversity interactions within the waterway. The graphic is copyright of the author.

Figure 1. This application of participatory mapping essentially blends human and biodiversity interactions within the waterway. The graphic is copyright of the author.

This post was written by Erin Hauer, MSc in Landscape Architecture Candidate, University of Copenhagen, on her application of Maptionnaire for researching biocultural diversity in urban waterway settings.