Valuing nature as a tool for more livable cities

Climate Action Adaptation 4 min read , July 31, 2019

Read this article in another language : Dutch โ€ข Spanish

We all enjoy spending a beautiful evening with friends in a park ๐Ÿปor having a morning run around a green corridor. We have the tendency to take many benefits of nature for granted. Recognizing the value of nature can be a powerful tool to make cities more livable and attractive. ๐Ÿ™Œ Stay with us for concrete ideas on how to do it. ๐Ÿ‘‡

How much is a park worth?

People use money every day as a way of exchanging value. In the market we find products and services to satisfy our demands. But when it comes to nature, we might find that the products and services are very difficult to value. Why? Simply because the value of nature goes way beyond the spectrum of the market.

Just think about the aesthetic value of the natural park you visited last holiday. You might remember how much money you spent while you were there. But it would probably be more difficult to shout a number for the actual experience. It gets more complicated if you think about the value for future generations to be able to enjoy the same. This is why the total economic value of a natural area is so difficult to measure.

We can't value what we don't know, right? Having an estimation of the benefits society gets from nature can be a powerful tool for enhancing those benefits. It is not about hanging a โ‚ฌ sign in every tree, but about acknowledging the different ways nature makes people's life better.

So, what does your city get out of nature concretely?

There are ways we can easily acknowledge the value of nature. For example, ecosystem services are the benefits that ecosystems bring to society. They work at different scales from global to local. Let's take a look at the urban ecosystem services relevant for your city or municipality. ๐Ÿคจ How many were you aware of?

Cultural services

  • A fresh environment to enjoy . ๐ŸƒNo matter if you want to sport or just take it easy and relax, an urban park will offer a great spot.
  • Increased touristic potential. ๐Ÿ•ถ๏ธPeople enjoy cool and green places, so much so that they could even pay for it.
  • Inspiration for people. ๐ŸŽจWho knows, maybe the next Beethoven will be inspired by one of the beautiful parks in your city.

Provisioning services

  • Source of food. ๐Ÿ’There are many edible fruits that can be harvested in urban parks.
  • Filtering and storing water. ๐Ÿ’งNatural areas play a key role in water infiltration and stormwater management in your city.
  • Providing materials. ๐ŸŒฟNatural resources such as wood or flowers for bouquets can be valuable products brought by parks.

Regulating services

  • Mitigating carbon emissions. ๐Ÿญ Plants can consume and sequester CO2 emissions, helping with your city's mitigation efforts.
  • Trapping air pollution. ๐Ÿš—Leaves can capture particulate matter from cars' exhaustion, before they reach people.
  • Local climate regulator.๐ŸŒก๏ธ Nature is a very cost-effective way to deal with heatwaves and other extreme weather events.

Supporting services

  • Host for local biodiversity. ๐Ÿฆ‹ Urban parks are essential for maintaining local biodiversity.
  • Habitat for species.๐ŸŒณ Nature areas have room for many species, including the human one. ๐Ÿ˜

This list was inspired by The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity framework. If you wish to dive deeper, take a look at some relevant resources here.

What can your municipality do?

Valuing nature has many benefits. It can help to understand the contribution of green areas ๐ŸŒฟto your city's welfare or evaluate consequences of other projects. Communicating about it helps to gain more citizen support ๐Ÿ’ช for some projects. Take a look at these actionable steps to find out what you can do next. ๐Ÿ‘‡

  • Initiate a dialogue with local stakeholders for discussing how nature can bring benefits. Check out a concrete example in Germany of how local governments can start a dialogue about valuing nature with their citizens.
  • Engage with local and regional experts to enhance ecosystems services in your city. Many organisations can bring advice and expertise to your local context, so that you don't start have to from scratch. ๐Ÿ™Œ
  • Perform a nature valuation assessment in your city. Your city can start with these concrete methodologies and study cases.
  • Encourage innovative business models based on ecosystem services. Provide information, support or even some extra funding to the initiatives that bring nature into your city.
  • Communicate about the advantages of nature locally and regionally. Communication is key to getting traction for your projects and having everyone on board.
    You'll want to check our article with good practices for successful communication.

Sources: The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity, inspiration from the Nature of Cities Summit.

Spoiler : ๐Ÿคซat Futureproofed, we support your city's effort of bringing more valuable nature to people. In our tool you'll find concrete nature-based solutions with metrics ready to start right now. You can also easily share your experiences and learn from other cities, so we can all make the world greener together. ๐Ÿ’ช

Can't wait to plan nature-based solutions in your city? You might want to take a look at our article on concrete actions to make your city green. And if you want to take it to the next level, check out our vertical garden story !

๐Ÿ™ŒMore articles like this? Subscribe to our newsletter for a monthly dose of relevant inspiration.

Cities Sustainability Solutions
Subscribe for articles, tips, stories, and inspiration by our Futureproofed team, delivered straight to your inbox โ€” once a month.
Sign up for our newsletter