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Article

Maria A. Cunha-e-Sá and Sofia F. Franco

Although forests located near urban areas are a small fraction of the forest cover, a good understanding of the extent to which —wildland-urban interface (WUI) forest conversion affects local economies and environmental services can help policy-makers harmonize urban development and environmental preservation at this interface, with positive impact on the welfare of local communities. A growing part of the forest resource worldwide has come under urban influence, both directly (i.e., becoming incorporated into the interface or located at the interface with urban areas) and indirectly (as urban uses and values have come to dominate more remote forest areas). Yet forestry has been rather hesitant to recognize its urban mandate. Even if the decision to convert land at the WUI (agriculture, fruit, timber, or rural use) into an alternative use (residential and commercial development) is conditional on the relative magnitude and timing of the returns of alternative land uses, urban forestry is still firmly rooted in the same basic concepts of traditional forestry. This in turn neglects features characterizing this type of forestland, such as the urban influences from increasingly land-consumptive development patterns. Moreover, interface timber production-allocated land provides public goods that otherwise would be permanently lost if land were converted to an irreversible use. Any framework discussing WUI optimal rotation periods and conversion dates should then incorporate the urban dimension in the forester problem. It must reflect the factors that influence both urban and forestry uses and account for the fact that some types of land use conversion are irreversible. The goal is to present a framework that serves as a first step in explaining the trends in the use and management of private land for timber production in an urbanizing environment. Our framework integrates different land uses to understand two questions: given that most of the WUI land use change is irreversible and forestry at this interface differs from classic forestry, how does urban forestry build upon and benefit from traditional forestry concepts and approaches? In particular, what are the implications for the Faustmann harvesting strategy when conversion to an irreversible land use occurs at some point in the future? The article begins with a short background on the worldwide trend of forestland conversion at the WUI, focusing mostly on the case of developed countries. This provides a context for the theoretical framework used in the subsequent analysis of how urban factors affect regeneration and conversion dates. The article further reviews theoretical models of forest management practices that have considered either land sale following clear-cutting or a switch to a more profitable alternative land use without selling the land. A brief discussion on the studies with a generalization of the classic Faustmann formula for land expectation value is also included. For completeness, comparative statics results and a numerical illustration of the main findings from the private landowner framework are included.

Article

Towns and cities generally exhibit higher temperatures than rural areas for a number of reasons, including the effect that urban materials have on the natural balance of incoming and outgoing energy at the surface level, the shape and geometry of buildings, and the impact of anthropogenic heating. This localized heating means that towns and cities are often described as urban heat islands (UHIs). Urbanized areas modify local temperatures, but also other meteorological variables such as wind speed and direction and rainfall patterns. The magnitude of the UHI for a given town or city tends to scale with the size of population, although smaller towns of just thousands of inhabitants can have an appreciable UHI effect. The UHI “intensity” (the difference in temperature between a city center and a rural reference point outside the city) is on the order of a few degrees Celsius on average, but can peak at as much as 10°C in larger cities, given the right conditions. UHIs tend to be enhanced during heatwaves, when there is lots of sunshine and a lack of wind to provide ventilation and disperse the warm air. The UHI is most pronounced at night, when rural areas tend to be cooler than cities and urban materials radiate the energy they have stored during the day into the local atmosphere. As well as affecting local weather patterns and interacting with local air pollution, the UHI can directly affect health through heat exposure, which can exacerbate minor illnesses, affect occupational performance, or increase the risk of hospitalization and even death. Urban populations can face serious risks to health during heatwaves whereby the heat associated with the UHI contributes additional warming. Heat-related health risks are likely to increase in future against a background of climate change and increasing urbanization throughout much of the world. However, there are ways to reduce urban temperatures and avoid some of the health impacts of the UHI through behavioral changes, modification of buildings, or by urban scale interventions. It is important to understand the physical properties of the UHI and its impact on health to evaluate the potential for interventions to reduce heat-related impacts.

Article

Wayne C. Zipperer, Robert Northrop, and Michael Andreu

At the beginning of the 21st century more than 50% of the world’s population lived in cities. By 2050, this percentage will exceed 60%, with the majority of growth occurring in Asia and Africa. As of 2020 there are 31 megacities, cities whose population exceeds 10 million, and 987 smaller cities whose populations are greater than 500 thousand but less than 5 million in the world. By 2030 there will be more than 41 megacities and 1290 smaller cities. However, not all cities are growing. In fact, shrinking cities, those whose populations are declining, occur throughout the world. Factors contributing to population decline include changes in the economy, low fertility rates, and catastrophic events. Population growth places extraordinary demand for natural resources and exceptional stress on natural systems. For example, over 13 million hectares of forest land are converted to agriculture, urban land use, and industrial forestry annually. This deforestation significantly affects both hydrologic systems and territorial habitats. Hydrologically, urbanization creates a condition called urban stream syndrome. The increase in storm runoff, caused by urbanization through the addition of impervious surfaces, alters stream flow, morphology, temperature, and water quantity and quality. In addition, leaky sewer lines and septic systems as well as the lack of sanitation systems contribute significant amounts of nutrients and organic contaminants such as pharmaceuticals, caffeine, and detergents. Ecologically, these stressors and contaminants significantly affect aquatic flora and fauna. Habitat loss is the greatest threat to biodiversity. Urbanization not only destroys and fragments habitats but also alters the environment itself. For example, deforestation and fragmentation of forest lands lead to the degradation and loss of forest interior habitat as well as creating forest edge habitat. These changes shift species composition and abundance from urban avoiders to urban dwellers. In addition, roads and other urban features isolate populations causing local extinctions, limit dispersal among populations, increase mortality rates, and aid in the movement of invasive species. Cities often have higher ambient temperatures than rural areas, a phenomenon called the urban heat island effect. The urban heat island effect alters precipitation patterns, increases ozone production (especially during the summer), modifies biogeochemical processes, and causes stresses on humans and native species. The negative effect of the expansion and urbanization itself can be minimized through proper planning and design. Planning with nature is not new but it has only recently been recognized that human survival is predicated on coexisting with biodiversity and native communities. How and if cities apply recommendations for sustainability depends entirely on the people themselves.

Article

Stephan Pauleit, Rieke Hansen, Emily Lorance Rall, Teresa Zölch, Erik Andersson, Ana Catarina Luz, Luca Szaraz, Ivan Tosics, and Kati Vierikko

Urban green infrastructure (GI) has been promoted as an approach to respond to major urban environmental and social challenges such as reducing the ecological footprint, improving human health and well-being, and adapting to climate change. Various definitions of GI have been proposed since its emergence more than two decades ago. This article aims to provide an overview of the concept of GI as a strategic planning approach that is based on certain principles. A variety of green space types exist in urban areas, including remnants of natural areas, farmland on the fringe, designed green spaces, and derelict land where successional vegetation has established itself. These green spaces, and especially components such as trees, can cover significant proportions of urban areas. However, their uneven distribution raises issues of social and environmental justice. Moreover, the diverse range of public, institutional, and private landowners of urban green spaces poses particular challenges to GI planning. Urban GI planning must consider processes of urban change, especially pressures on green spaces from urban sprawl and infill development, while derelict land may offer opportunities for creating new, biodiverse green spaces within densely built areas. Based on ample evidence from the research literature, it is suggested that urban GI planning can make a major contribution to conserving and enhancing biodiversity, improving environmental quality and reducing the ecological footprint, adapting cities to climate change, and promoting social cohesion. In addition, GI planning may support the shift toward a green economy. The benefits derived from urban green spaces via the provision of ecosystem services are key to meeting these challenges. The text argues that urban GI planning should build on seven principles to unlock its full potential. Four of these are treated in more detail: green-gray integration, multifunctionality, connectivity, and socially inclusive planning. Considering these principles in concert is what makes GI planning a distinct planning approach. Results from a major European research project indicate that the principles of urban GI planning have been applied to different degrees. In particular, green-gray integration and approaches to socially inclusive planning offer scope for further improvement In conclusion, urban GI is considered to hold much potential for the transition toward more sustainable and resilient pathways of urban development. While the approach has developed in the context of the Western world, its application to the rapidly developing cities of the Global South should be a priority.

Article

Vincent Moreau and Guillaume Massard

The concept of metabolism takes root in biology and ecology as a systematic way to account for material flows in organisms and ecosystems. Early applications of the concept attempted to quantify the amount of water and food the human body processes to live and sustain itself. Similarly, ecologists have long studied the metabolism of critical substances and nutrients in ecological succession towards climax. With industrialization, the material and energy requirements of modern economic activities have grown exponentially, together with emissions to the air, water and soil. From an analogy with ecosystems, the concept of metabolism grew into an analytical methodology for economic systems. Research in the field of material flow analysis has developed approaches to modeling economic systems by assessing the stocks and flows of substances and materials for systems defined in space and time. Material flow analysis encompasses different methods: industrial and urban metabolism, input–output analysis, economy-wide material flow accounting, socioeconomic metabolism, and more recently material flow cost accounting. Each method has specific scales, reference substances such as metals, and indicators such as concentration. A material flow analysis study usually consists of a total of four consecutive steps: (a) system definition, (b) data acquisition, (c) calculation, and (d) interpretation. The law of conservation of mass underlies every application, which implies that all material flows, as well as stocks, must be accounted for. In the early 21st century, material depletion, accumulation, and recycling are well-established cases of material flow analysis. Diagnostics and forecasts, as well as historical or backcast analyses, are ideally performed in a material flow analysis, to identify shifts in material consumption for product life cycles or physical accounting and to evaluate the material and energy performance of specific systems. In practice, material flow analysis supports policy and decision making in urban planning, energy planning, economic and environmental performance, development of industrial symbiosis and eco industrial parks, closing material loops and circular economy, pollution remediation/control and material and energy supply security. Although material flow analysis assesses the amount and fate of materials and energy rather than their environmental or human health impacts, a tacit assumption states that reduced material throughputs limit such impacts.

Article

Elisabet Lindgren and Thomas Elmqvist

Ecosystem services refer to benefits for human societies and well-being obtained from ecosystems. Research on health effects of ecosystem services have until recently mostly focused on beneficial effects on physical and mental health from spending time in nature or having access to urban green space. However, nearly all of the different ecosystem services may have impacts on health, either directly or indirectly. Ecosystem services can be divided into provisioning services that provide food and water; regulating services that provide, for example, clean air, moderate extreme events, and regulate the local climate; supporting services that help maintain biodiversity and infectious disease control; and cultural services. With a rapidly growing global population, the demand for food and water will increase. Knowledge about ecosystems will provide opportunities for sustainable agriculture production in both terrestrial and marine environments. Diarrheal diseases and associated childhood deaths are strongly linked to poor water quality, sanitation, and hygiene. Even though improvements are being made, nearly 750 million people still lack access to reliable water sources. Ecosystems such as forests, wetlands, and lakes capture, filter, and store water used for drinking, irrigation, and other human purposes. Wetlands also store and treat solid waste and wastewater, and such ecosystem services could become of increasing use for sustainable development. Ecosystems contribute to local climate regulation and are of importance for climate change mitigation and adaptation. Coastal ecosystems, such as mangrove and coral reefs, act as natural barriers against storm surges and flooding. Flooding is associated with increased risk of deaths, epidemic outbreaks, and negative health impacts from destroyed infrastructure. Vegetation reduces the risk of flooding, also in cities, by increasing permeability and reducing surface runoff following precipitation events. The urban heat island effect will increase city-center temperatures during heatwaves. The elderly, people with chronic cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, and outdoor workers in cities where temperatures soar during heatwaves are in particular vulnerable to heat. Vegetation and especially trees help in different ways to reduce temperatures by shading and evapotranspiration. Air pollution increases the mortality and morbidity risks during heatwaves. Vegetation has been shown also to contribute to improved air quality by, depending on plant species, filtering out gases and airborne particulates. Greenery also has a noise-reducing effect, thereby decreasing noise-related illnesses and annoyances. Biological control uses the knowledge of ecosystems and biodiversity to help control human and animal diseases. Natural surroundings and urban parks and gardens have direct beneficial effects on people’s physical and mental health and well-being. Increased physical activities have well-known health benefits. Spending time in natural environments has also been linked to aesthetic benefits, life enrichments, social cohesion, and spiritual experience. Even living close to or with a view of nature has been shown to reduce stress and increase a sense of well-being.