University of Oulu

Tuominen, L.S., Helle, S., Helanterä, H. et al. Structural equation modeling reveals decoupling of ecological and self-perceived outcomes in a garden box social-ecological system. Sci Rep 12, 6425 (2022).

Structural equation modeling reveals decoupling of ecological and self-perceived outcomes in a garden box social-ecological system

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Author: Tuominen, Laura S.1; Helle, Samuli2; Helanterä, Heikki3;
Organizations: 1Department of Biology, University of Turku, 20014, Turku, Finland
2Department of Social Research, University of Turku, 20014, Turku, Finland
3Ecology and genetics research unit, University of Oulu, 90014, Oulu, Finland
4Department of Bioeconomy, Novia University of Applied Sciences, 10600, Ekenäs, Finland
5Department of Biology, Lund University, 22362, Lund, Sweden
6The Social Science Research Institute, Åbo Akademi, 20500, Turku, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.6 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Springer Nature, 2022
Publish Date: 2022-10-25


It is well known that green urban commons enhance mental and physical well-being and improve local biodiversity. We aim to investigate how these outcomes are related in an urban system and which variables are associated with better outcomes. We model the outcomes of an urban common—box gardening—by applying the Social-Ecological Systems (SES) framework. We expand the SES framework by analyzing it from the perspective of social evolution theory. The system was studied empirically through field inventories and questionnaires and modeled quantitatively by Structural Equation Modeling (SEM). This method offers powerful statistical models of complex social-ecological systems. Our results show that objectively evaluated ecological outcomes and self-perceived outcomes are decoupled: gardening groups that successfully govern the natural resource ecologically do not necessarily report many social, ecological, or individual benefits, and vice versa. Social capital, box location, gardener concerns, and starting year influenced the changes in the outcomes. In addition, the positive association of frequent interactions with higher self-perceived outcomes, and lack of such association with relatedness of group members suggests that reciprocity rather than kin selection explains cooperation. Our findings exemplify the importance of understanding natural resource systems at a very low “grassroot” level.

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Series: Scientific reports
ISSN: 2045-2322
ISSN-E: 2045-2322
ISSN-L: 2045-2322
Volume: 12
Issue: 1
Article number: 6425
DOI: 10.1038/s41598-022-10178-z
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology
Funding: The authors would like to extend acknowledgment to Jonna Kukkonen for the excellent study system idea, the people who participated in the survey, and the city of Turku for their collaboration and for allowing us to collect data from these commons. L.T. and D.R. were supported by the Kone Foundation, project no. 201806043. S.H. was supported by the Academy of Finland (grants no. 317808, 320162, 325857, and 331400) and the Strategic Research Council (grant no. 345183). P.K. was supported by the Academy of Finland, project 309992.
Dataset Reference: The online version contains supplementary material available at
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