Professor, principal researcher

+46 8 16 42 57


Profile summary

  • Co-production of knowledge
  • Cultural ecosystem services
  • Local and indigenous knowledge, management practices, and institutions
  • Social-ecological systems analysis
  • Biosphere stewardship
  • Sense of place

Maria Tengö’s research focuses on human-nature connections and implications for stewardship

Tengö is a research leader of the Biosphere Stewardship stream at SRC, and is currently leading research projects on co-production of knowledge for syntheses across scientific, local and indigenous knowledge systems; sense of place and cultural ecosystems services in Southern Africa; and emerging stewardship networks in Bangalore, India. She is part of the GRAID programme, focusing on linking a Multiple Evidence Base perspective into planning for development, including resilience assessments.

As an underlying theme, Tengö’s research sets out to understand how positive connections between people and nature matter for moving towards trajectories of ecosystem-based management for human well-being. In particular, she is interested in the in-tangible, non-material aspects of human-nature interactions, such as local knowledge, sense of place, and biocultural connections, and the implications for building social-ecological resilience and transformative capacity. She has been working with aspects in social-ecological systems in Tanzania, Madagascar, South Africa, India, and Sweden.

Tengö is and has been supervising PhD and master level projects on e.g. cultural ecosystem services, stewardship networks, sense of place and place making, and indigenous knowledge in South Africa, India (Bangalore), US (New York), Colombia (Bogota), and Ecuador.

On-going research projects:

  • Ecosystem service based strategies to alleviate poverty in southern Africa: The importance of cross-scale synergies and cultural services in addressing multiple dimensions of human well-being. Co-PI with Oonsie Biggs, funded by VR 2015-2017
  • Connecting diverse knowledge systems at multiple scales for enhanced ecosystem governance - developing the Multiple Evidence Base approach. PI, funded by VR 2016-2018.

Tengö has an interdisciplinary PhD in Natural Resource Management from the Department of Systems Ecology, Stockholm University. Her undergraduate education was primarily in biology and ecology at Uppsala and Stockholm University, but included courses in ecological economics, philosophy, history of science, and conservation management. During her PhD she was engaged in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment.

She was a postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Geography, McGill University, Canada. During 2005-2006 she was developing and coordinating the Master programme that was the precursor to the current master program at the SRC.

Tengö has supervised one PhD-student (Vanessa Masterson, defended 2016), and more than 10 master students (6 at the SRC).

Since 2010, Tengö has been collaborating closely with SwedBio, a science-policy interface based at the SRC, on building a community of practice across knowledge systems and cultures to address the challenge of mobilizing and synthesizing knowledge from diverse knowledge systems in equal, transparent, and useful ways. Together with SwedBio partners and academic colleagues, we are working in the context of synthesising knowledge across scales e.g. in the IPBES and the CBD, as well as local to regional contexts, based on a Multiple Evidence Base approach, which you can read more about here.

Carolin Seiferth, PhD candidate

Publications by Tengö, Maria