Home to over half of the planet’s population, urban areas are responsible for a significant proportion of global greenhouse gas emissions.
What is green infrastructure and why is it important?
Green infrastructure is defined as a “planned network of natural and semi-natural areas with other environmental features designed and managed to deliver a wide range of ecosystem services”. This term incorporates a huge variety of different ecosystems from parks, playing fields and woodlands to community gardens, green roofs and street planters. These spaces facilitate physical activity, relaxation and can be a refuge from the noisy city. Green spaces help to foster biodiversity and provide safe routes for people walking and cycling through the city thus contributing positively to population health. In fact, estimates show that physical inactivity, linked to poor walkability and lack of access to recreational areas, accounts for 3.3% of global deaths.
There is robust evidence to support the claim that green space has a positive impact on people’s wellbeing with features such as parks, rivers and trees creating more liveable and pleasing urban environments. Research has shown that having access to green space can reduce health inequalities, improve well-being and aid in the treatment of mental illness.
Importantly, green spaces also help to regulate the impacts of harmful emissions in the city. Trees absorb carbon dioxide and help to filter out harmful pollution while urban waterways such as lakes, rivers or even fountains moderate temperature and together with vegetation, play a vital role in cooling cities. In some areas, it has been estimated that evapotranspiration (the process of converting water in leaves to water vapor which is then transpired through the trees) can reduce peak summer temperatures by 5°C. Additionally, green spaces provide areas where runoff interception can occur, thus reducing the likelihood of flooding, an issue particularly pertinent to Scotland where winter rainfall is expected to increase between 10-35% in some areas.
Supporting the development of green infrastructure is becoming an even more prominent part of urban policymaking across the world. From street planters to citizen gardening, the following section describes a couple of examples in which local authorities in Scotland are helping to create healthier, greener cities. Read the rest of this entry »