Medium_marthe_derkzen Urban green to combat heat and flooding

19 Jul 11:06

Marthe Derkzen

How can municipalities increase public support for green adaptation measures?

Water rick park in Kralingen West neighbourhood, Rotterdam.

People are more aware of present-day heat waves but more alarmed by future flooding. How can municipalities increase public support for green adaptation measures?

TEDxUCD talk in December 2015 on Novel Ecosystems.

A new TURAS study by Marthe Derkzen, Astrid van Teeffelen and Peter Verburg (Environmental Geography) found that citizens are willing to support climate adaptation through green infrastructure design as long as the design is multifunctional, meaning that new greenery should come with recreational and aesthetic benefits. The authors advise cities to create public support not only by making people aware of climate change impacts but also by providing information on the multiple benefits of green infrastructure, and to tailor the design to local needs.

Types of green infrastructure used in and photographed for the survey, organised across scales (home, neighbourhood, city)

Climate impacts, green infrastructure and adaptation measures

Citizens notice urban heat and flooding and consider these serious future challenges, but do not always realize how green infrastructure may support climate adaptation. Green infrastructure benefits with a more direct effect on people’s health and wellbeing, such as recreation and air purification, are better understood than less direct benefits such as temperature regulation.
Most (top) and least (bottom) important ecosystem services provided by green infrastructure types, as indicated by respondents


However, the study found that providing information about green infrastructure benefits can increase public support for adaptation measures. When citizens are informed about the climate adaptation capacity of different measures, their preferences shift towards the most effective options.

Survey forms to measure preferences for green adaptation measures. The symbols convey information about climate regulation benefits: thermometers indicate cooling capacity and water drops indicate flood protection capacity

Tailor to local needs

The general picture is that people prefer large-scale greenery such as city parks. But the study also points out that green adaptation measures need to be tailored to local preferences on the neighbourhood level. A comparison of two neighbourhoods in Rotterdam, the Netherlands illustrates the different demands. Whereas the first neighbourhood prefers trees, streams, wooded parks, green walls and roofs, the second neighbourhood chooses accessible greenery that can be used for leisure, sports and play such as gardens, playgrounds, grass strips and recreational parks. The study shows that such differences are related to demographic factors but also to the locally available green infrastructure. A similar relation exists between green infrastructure and climate impacts: the second neighbourhood has less green areas and its residents encounter more heat and flood prone locations while also experiencing more personal problems with climate impacts, e.g. related to health.
The study, presenting a novel multi-dimensional socio-cultural valuation framework, was published in Landscape and Urban Planning.

Keywords: City planning, ecosystem services, nature-based solutions, urban heat, urban flooding,