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Environmental Sustainability and Applications

A section of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050).

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Environmental sustainability is a broad concept that brings together the ecological and socio-economic components of sustainability. Environmental sustainability is closely related to the maintenance of environmental security, defined by Müller and colleagues in 2008 as: [environmental security], in an objective sense, aims to evaluate the level of threats in order to acquire and sustain ecosystem values in terms of ecosystem goods and services at multiple scales, and in a subjective sense, it represents a level of fear that such values will be attacked and possibly lost.

Over the last decades, the use of primary resources has increased due to the growing global population, economic improvements, and new life styles, which are changing the habits of populations in both high-income and developing countries. However, non-renewable ecosystem goods (i.e., fossil fuels, fertile lands, metals, and mineral reserves) and services (i.e., climate regulation, pollination, and disturbance regulation) are commonly mismanaged and at risk. As a result, the sustainable use of natural resources is becoming mandatory for the development of current economies and the support of human well-being, and to guarantee long-term environmental sustainability and security.

Since the second half of the 20th century, research and studies have focused their interest on environmental concerns such as air pollution, water and soil contamination, excessive mine extraction, deforestation, waste mismanagement, and unplanned land use changes. In this context, a social–ecological perspective of environmental sustainability is based on a system’s adaptability to environmental change in terms of its ability to cope with human and natural disturbances in a changing world. However, to enhance environmental sustainability, it is mandatory to deal with threats and hazards and with human responses to environmental risks.

In this context, this section focuses on original research and reviews regarding the current state of our understanding of how to measure and manage the environmental sustainability of socio-ecological systems to enhance their resilience and security through different applications at different spatial (urban, regional, national, and worldwide) and temporal (short-, medium-, and long-term) scales. Spatial and remote sensing approaches, subjective assessments based on human perception and values, and scenario building are all welcome. The proposal and use of new environmental sustainability metrics can help assessing and supporting environmental planning and management towards sustainability.

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