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Green spaces and corridors in urban areas

Recent studies have highlighted the importance of boosting green urban areas and connecting fragments of green space with ecological corridors to improve biodiversity and animal species dispersal within the urban landscape. If adequately designed, green corridors can improve urban ventilation, allowing for cooler air from outside to penetrate into the more densely built areas, and reducing thus the urban heat island effect. Urban green areas can also have positive effects for human health and climate change adaptation. The capacity of vegetation to retain water is an important flood prevention feature that can reduce peak discharges..

Green spaces in cities can also provide cooling through shading and enhanced evapotranspiration, thus reducing the heat island effect that occurs in many cities. Green areas are often threatened by expanding city structures, which have fragmented natural areas, creating small patches of green spaces in amongst buildings and roads. For example, patches of urban woodlands are generally separated from each other, which affects the ability of many woodland species to disperse, or move among different locations with similar habitats. Ecological corridors or connections between urban woodlands, gardens or other green spaces are recognised as a way to limit the negative effects of fragmentation. The creation of green areas and corridors can be applicable in most urban areas. The wide array of available techniques allows application in areas with very different characteristics and even where space is limited. Techniques include, for example, green roofs and walls which use vegetation on the roofs and facades of buildings to provide cooling in summer and thermal insulation in winter.

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Reference information

Adaptation Details



IPCC categories

Structural and physical: Ecosystem-based adaptation options

Stakeholder participation

The success of these measures is increased by the involvement of local stakeholder networks from the private, public and voluntary sectors.

Success and Limiting Factors

Managing the urban landscape is a complex process subjected to conflicting agendas such as housing, transport infrastructure, commercial infrastructure, economy, etc. Investing in and building up green infrastructure needs smart and integrated approaches to land management, urban design and strategic spatial planning. Green infrastructures need to be established in a careful way, considering local characteristics and vulnerabilities to climate change. The selection of species to be adopted for the infrastructures is crucial, as they have to be adapted to local environment and to the expected evolution of climatic conditions. Side effects should also be considered in the identification of plant species; e.g. the introduction of exotic species can have negative impacts on local biodiversity.

Costs and Benefits

Studies on costs and benefits suggest these measures have social, ecological and financial benefits. Benefits include: increased urban biodiversity, higher environmental qualities in urban areas (e.g., recreational areas, community gardening), reduced vulnerability to heat waves and to floods, increased carbon storage (mitigation), mitigation of air pollution.

The European Commission encourages green solutions, considering green infrastructure as an essential tool for climate change mitigation and adaptation. Green infrastructure is only mandated in a small number of national and regional level planning policies in Europe.

Implementation Time

5-10 years.

Life Time

More than 25 years.

Reference information


DG CLIMA Project Adaptation Strategies of European Cities (EU Cities Adapt)

Published in Climate-ADAPT Apr 15 2021   -   Last Modified in Climate-ADAPT Nov 02 2022

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