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Nature in Sustainable Cities

By 2050, two-thirds of us will live in cities. For many, urban life has many advantages — essential services are always available, for example, and friends are never far away.

But urban areas face major environmental challenges, too. New approaches and integrated policies are needed to maintain and improve the quality of life for residents, and to make sure that cities can cope with a changing environment.

Our Nature in Sustainable Cities research focuses on the role blue-green infrastructure plays in helping cities adapt to the effects of climate change and urbanisation.

Nine complementary research programmes will focus on key challenges in major cities in China, India, North America, Europe and the Middle East, considering both regional climate impacts and local objectives in urban growth and sustainability.

Each project is led by major research institutions in collaboration with regional policy leaders. Our work builds on past research and develops new approaches that help fill in key knowledge gaps.

Where we work

Our work in Europe

The impact of climate change and increasing urbanisation in modern cities has led to a rise in storm-water flooding, nutrient pollution and the heat island effect (elevated temperature in urban areas), requiring urgent and long-term sustainable solutions. Nature-based green infrastructure has the potential to mitigate these impacts when located and managed strategically.

With a particular focus on urban wooded areas, this project is investigating the relationship between the strategic management and placement of green infrastructure with the ecological services they provide, in the context of climate change adaptation and urban planning.

Multidisciplinary research in the UK and France is combining state-of-the-art technology with traditional methods to measure the performance and health of urban trees with respect to a range of soil, microclimate and hydrological conditions. Six different urban settings in Paris, London and Birmingham are being studied to explore the impacts of different land management and spatial planning conditions on water and carbon dynamics as well as the thermal conditions in and around these urban natural areas.

The study will show how different urban planning and land management practices influence the performance of urban trees. The outcomes of the research will be used to create clearer guidelines for improved use of nature-based solutions to foster more sustainable cities that are resilient to climate change.

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