Nature in the Urban Context: Renaturalisation as an Important Dimension of Urban Resilience and Planning
How are our cities confronting the challenges posed by a warming climate, the loss of biodiversity and major resource depletion? ―This article discusses the opportunities and benefits of applying the concepts of renaturalisiation and rewilding of cities. It introduces Nature-Based Solutions (NBS) in urban planning that are integrated with the aim to enhance urban resilience and to slow down the biodiversity decline, which can be applied in two areas: through the conception of new green neighbourhoods; and through the regeneration and re-greening of existing but neglected parts of the city, such as postindustrial brownfields or economically weak districts. Contact to nature is essential for human existence, urban wellbeing and a good quality of life. Green spaces in cities –big or small– all contribute to health and wellbeing. However, many cities, including in the U.S. and in Europe, do not offer residents easy access to green space within the city. Improving better access to green spaces and extending gardens and parks will deliver a large number of benefits, such as ecosystem services, better water management for enhanced urban flood control, slowing down the biodiversity loss, contributing to food security, with the potential to restore damaged ecosystems. Furthermore, additional green space and NBS help to keep cities cool during heatwaves and improve the urban microclimate. As most of our cities keep growing and warming, the scale of the issue is significant. For example, in 2020, cities in the European Union were home to over 70 percent of Europe’s population, and this figure is expected to increase to over 80 percent by the middle of the century. This translates to 36 million new urban citizens in Europe by 2050 alone, who will need housing, employment, health care and access to green spaces (EU-Commission, 2018). In this context, nature-based solutions and re-greening can generate significant benefits for citizens, improve urban health and well-being, and offer an opportunity to effectively deploy nature in helping to resolve major societal challenges ―such as social inclusion, food security and disaster risk reduction. However, as the discussion of this article shows, it is essential that the design of NBS is fully integrated with other complementary planning interventions and seeks synergies across all sectors.
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