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Special Issue "Nature-Based Solutions for Urban Challenges"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Sustainable Urban and Rural Development".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 May 2017)

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Dr. Davide Geneletti

Department of Civil, Environmental and Mechanical Engineering, University of Trento, via Mesiano, 77 I-38123 Trento, Italy
Website 1 | Website 2 | E-Mail
Phone: +39 0461282685
Fax: +39 0461282672
Interests: impact assessment (Strategic Environmental Assessment, sustainability assessment); ecosystem services; spatial planning; multicriteria analysis; ecosystem-based adaptation strategies; equity in land use decisions

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Nature-based solutions (NBS) are broadly defined as the use of nature and ecological functions to address societal challenges. In urban areas, NBS are receiving increasing attention to tackle issues such as climate change adaptation and mitigation, population health, food security, and natural disasters. NBS in cities include, for example, green areas and corridors, ponds for phytoremediation, sustainable urban drainage systems, green roofs and walls, interventions to reduce soil sealing and to increase ventilation. Evidence is needed to improve our understanding of the range of economic, social, and environmental benefits provided by NBS in urban areas, as well as to promote their inclusion in urban planning and decision-making processes.

This Special Issue aims at constructing a first body of knowledge to discuss the opportunities and challenges associated to the development of NBS in urban areas. Papers are sought that critically examine the advantages and disadvantages of NBS, by presenting pilot applications, desk-top reviews of case studies, proposal of analytical methods and tools. Examples of topics of interests include:

-       Co-benefits and trade-off associated to NBS in urban environments;

-       Cost-effectiveness of NBS, particularly vis-à-vis more traditional approaches, such as “gray” infrastructures;

-       Inclusion of NBS in urban planning and design, policy formulation and other decision-making processes;

-       NBS to improve urban life and create more livable urban environment;

-       NBS for brownfield regeneration and revitalization of fringe or marginal areas;

-       Scalability of NBS;

-       Disservices and limitations associated to NBS;

-       Flexibility of NBS to fit different ecological and climatic conditions, as well as planning and governance mechanisms.

Dr. Davide Geneletti
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1700 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


  • ecosystem services
  • ecosystem-based adaptation
  • nature-based solutions
  • climate
  • health
  • biodiversity
  • urban well-being

Published Papers (10 papers)

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Open AccessArticle Applying the Concept of Perceived Restoration to the Case of Cheonggyecheon Stream Park in Seoul, Korea
1 Bureau of Ecological Research, Division of Ecosystem Services and Research Planning, National Institute of Ecology, Chungcheongnam-do 33657, Korea
2 Department of Environmental Planning, Interdisciplinary Program in Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning Institute, Gwanak-ro 1, Gwanak-gu, 82-222, Seoul National University, Seoul 08826, Korea
3 Graduate School of Environmental Studies, Gwanak-ro 1, Gwanak-gu, 82-222, Seoul National University, Seoul 08826, Korea
Sustainability 2017, 9(8), 1368; https://doi.org/10.3390/su9081368
Received: 21 June 2017 / Revised: 31 July 2017 / Accepted: 1 August 2017 / Published: 3 August 2017
Abstract | Cited by 1PDF Full-text (690 KB) | HTML Full-textXML Full-text | Supplementary Files
Abstract: Studies on perceived restoration have focused on the differences between natural and artificial environments, whereas studies on what makes people select a particular restorative environment are limited. Using the location of Cheonggyecheon Stream Park in the urban center of Seoul, South Korea, this study tests whether people self-select locations based on individual and environmental characteristics. Empirical testing was conducted on 268 responses on a visitor survey that was developed based on the Perceived Restorativeness Scale. The major findings were that visitors’ characteristics such as gender, age, number of companions, visit frequency, and travel mode affect their selection of a particular setting, and that the chosen setting subsequently influences three dimensions of the Scale: being away, fascination, and coherence. These findings suggest that both individual and environmental characteristics should be considered in the creation of an effective perceived restorative environment in an urban center.
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Nature-Based Solutions for Urban Challenges)

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Open AccessArticle Does “Greening” of Neotropical Cities Considerably Mitigate Carbon Dioxide Emissions? The Case of Medellin, Colombia
1 Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University, Environment Hall, 9 Circuit Drive, Durham, NC 27708, USA
2 Programa de Biología, Facultad de Ciencias Naturales y Matemáticas, Universidad del Rosario, Cr. 24 No 63C-69, Bogotá, Colombia
3 Programa de pós Graduação em Engenharia Florestal, Universidade Federal do Paraná, Av. Pref. Lothário Meissner, 632, CEP: 80210-170 Curitiba, Paraná, Brazil
Sustainability 2017, 9(5), 785; https://doi.org/10.3390/su9050785
Received: 30 January 2017 / Revised: 28 April 2017 / Accepted: 2 May 2017 / Published: 9 May 2017
Abstract | Cited by 1PDF Full-text (1041 KB) | HTML Full-textXML Full-text
Abstract: Cities throughout the world are advocating highly promoted tree plantings as a climate change mitigation measure. Assessing the carbon offsets associated with urban trees relative to other climate change policies is vital for sustainable development, planning, and solving environmental and socio-economic problems, but is difficult in developing countries. We estimated and assessed carbon dioxide (CO2) storage, sequestration, and emission offsets by public trees in the Medellin Metropolitan Area, Colombia, as a viable Nature-Based Solution for the Neotropics. While previous studies have discussed nature-based solutions and explored urban tree carbon dynamics in high income countries, few have been conducted in tropical cities in low-middle income countries, particularly within South America. We used a public tree inventory for the Metropolitan Area of the Aburrá Valley and an available urban forest functional model, i-Tree Streets, calibrated for Colombia’s context. We found that CO2 offsets from public trees were not as effective as cable cars or landfills. However, if available planting spaces are considered, carbon offsets become more competitive with cable cars and other air quality and socio-economic co-benefits are also provided. The use of carbon estimation models and the development of relevant carbon accounting protocols in Neotropical cities are also discussed. Our nature-based solution approach can be used to better guide management of urban forests to mitigate climate change and carbon offset accounting in tropical cities lacking available information.
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Nature-Based Solutions for Urban Challenges)

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Open AccessArticle The Implementation of Green Infrastructure: Relating a General Concept to Context and Site
Department of Urban and Rural Development, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, 75007 Uppsala, Sweden
Sustainability 2017, 9(4), 610; https://doi.org/10.3390/su9040610
Received: 10 January 2017 / Revised: 6 April 2017 / Accepted: 10 April 2017 / Published: 14 April 2017
Abstract | Cited by 4PDF Full-text (1666 KB) | HTML Full-textXML Full-text
Abstract: In the quest for more sustainable urban landscape development, the concept of “green infrastructure” (GI) has become central in policy documents and as a multifunctional general planning tool. GI is not, however, a simple and unambiguous solution. While in policy documents there are claims for more and connected GI, actual urban development takes another direction. The densifying imperative is hard to combine with an increased and more connected GI. This paper argues for a critical and diversified approach to the concept of GI, in order to facilitate its implementation in urban planning and management. Any kind of GI will not deliver all ecosystems services in any place, not without land use conflicts, investments and long term operating costs. This calls for a GI concept linked to actors and mediating conflicting values. Linguistic as well as spatial definitions of the two relevant dichotomies of “green-grey” and “public-private” are crucial in GI location, design, construction and management, it is argued. Overarching representations of GI will be needed, but not only pictured as a separate system, but also displayed with necessary integration to the whole urban landscape. Development over time will need an intersectorial implementation and management program. Some of the GI intentions may be implemented in planning processes, some through re-organization and redesign of public space, and some by agreements with landowners. To reach out to implementation in ordinary urban development, GI needs to be described in a way that establishes points of connection to a variety of relevant actors and organizations taking part in implementation of GI.
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Nature-Based Solutions for Urban Challenges)

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Open AccessArticle A Study of Walkable Spaces with Natural Elements for Urban Regeneration: A Focus on Cases in Seoul, South Korea
Architecture Department, Urban Planning and Design Lab, Korea University, Seoul 136713, Korea
Sustainability 2017, 9(4), 587; https://doi.org/10.3390/su9040587
Received: 31 January 2017 / Revised: 31 March 2017 / Accepted: 7 April 2017 / Published: 11 April 2017
Abstract | Cited by 3PDF Full-text (21397 KB) | HTML Full-textXML Full-text
Abstract: environmental protection issues and the monitoring of pollution, especially for the largest cities in Asia, are becoming increasingly prominent factors for inclusive urban planning of public open spaces. Recently, a walkability concept was implemented in many cities, and in 2016 it became a campaign direction for development in Seoul. This paper considers conditions of implementation for the walkability concept, using examples of pedestrian walkway-making initiatives, and regeneration of existing walkways along water streams in urban case studies in Seoul, South Korea. The role of nature-based solutions was considered in relation to aesthetics, and social and environmental characteristics (e.g., air pollution, oxygenation through greenery) obtained through literature reviews for the case studies. Considering the complexity of the situation, with factors such as Air Quality Index (AQI) warning conditions, and the general positive impact of walkability on enhancing a healthy life style and social interaction and on reducing congestion, this study contributes to the discussion on walkability, and the importance of nature-based urban regeneration projects for densely populated areas in cities. The results of particular cases in this paper suggest the need for careful monitoring and consideration of various factors for urban regeneration walkable design projects.
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Nature-Based Solutions for Urban Challenges)

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Open AccessArticle What Causal Drivers Influence Carbon Storage in Shanghai, China’s Urban and Peri-Urban Forests?
1 College of Life and Environmental Sciences, Shanghai Normal University, Shanghai 200234, China
2 Urban Ecology and Envrionmental Center, Shanghai Normal University, Shanghai 200234, China
3 Biology Program, Facultad de Ciencias Naturalesy Matemáticas, Universidad del Rosario, location, Bogotá 111221492, Colombia
Sustainability 2017, 9(4), 577; https://doi.org/10.3390/su9040577
Received: 6 February 2017 / Revised: 28 March 2017 / Accepted: 7 April 2017 / Published: 10 April 2017
Abstract | Cited by 1PDF Full-text (2473 KB) | HTML Full-textXML Full-text
Abstract: Studies have documented many biophysical factors that are correlated with urban forest carbon storage. This urban forest function is also increasingly being promoted as a nature-based solution for cities. While urbanization affects both the structure and function of urban forest ecosystems, quantitative analyses of specific casual drivers of carbon storage in urban versus peri-urban forests are scarce. To address this lack of information, we used field data of random plots located along an urban to rural gradient in Shanghai, China, region-specific biomass equations, and path analysis of commonly studied urban forest socioeconomic and ecological drivers to analyze their effects on above ground tree carbon storage. An urbanization index was also developed to quantitatively differentiate urban from peri-urban sites along the transect. Results show that in both urban and peri-urban forests, percent tree and shrub cover had a significant and positive effect on tree and shrub carbon, but tree and shrub density had an even greater effect. Further, tree and shrub species diversity had no effects on carbon storage, while the effects of species composition on tree and shrub carbon in urban forests was different from those in peri-urban areas. Peri-urban forests also exhibited a significant effect of percent tree and shrub cover on tree and shrub species diversity. This approach, using a path analysis of field and plot data and site-specific dendrometric and urbanization information, can be used to quantitatively identify little explored causal dependences between drivers and ecosystem services without relying exclusively on spatial land cover data often not available in developing countries.
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Nature-Based Solutions for Urban Challenges)

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Open AccessArticle A Model for Assessing Pedestrian Corridors. Application to Vitoria-Gasteiz City (Spain)
1 Transport Research Centre (TRANSyT-UPM), Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, 28040 Madrid, Spain
2 Department of Forest and Environmental Engineering and Management, MONTES (School of Forest Engineering and Natural Environment), Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, 28040 Madrid, Spain
Sustainability 2017, 9(3), 434; https://doi.org/10.3390/su9030434
Received: 12 January 2017 / Revised: 10 March 2017 / Accepted: 13 March 2017 / Published: 16 March 2017
Abstract | Cited by 3PDF Full-text (4210 KB) | HTML Full-textXML Full-text
Abstract: From a mobility perspective, walking is considered to be the most sustainable transport mode. One of the consequences of motor-oriented urban configuration on pedestrian mobility is urban fragmentation, which affects sustainability in cities. In this paper, we use a natural-based approach to landscape fragmentation and connectivity (inherited from landscape ecology) for pedestrian mobility planning. Our aim is to design a useful methodology to identify priority pedestrian corridors, and to assess the effects of implementing barrier-free pedestrian corridors in the city. For this purpose, we developed a method that integrates Geographical Information Systems (GIS) network analysis with kernel density methods, which are commonly used for designating habitat corridors. It was applied to Vitoria-Gasteiz (Spain). Pedestrian mobility was assessed by comparison of travel times between different scenarios. Results show that the implementation of pedestrian corridors reduces travel time by approximately 6%. Thus, an intervention in a small percentage of the city’s street network could considerably reduce pedestrian travel times. The proposed methodology is a useful tool for urban and transport planners to improve pedestrian mobility and manage motorised traffic.
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Nature-Based Solutions for Urban Challenges)

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Open AccessReview Characterisation of Nature-Based Solutions for the Built Environment
1 Welsh School of Architecture, Cardiff University, Cardiff CF10 3XQ, UK
2 Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS), Aberystwyth University, Aberystwyth SY23 3JG, UK
Sustainability 2017, 9(1), 149; https://doi.org/10.3390/su9010149
Received: 1 October 2016 / Revised: 7 January 2017 / Accepted: 16 January 2017 / Published: 20 January 2017
Abstract | Cited by 15PDF Full-text (1778 KB) | HTML Full-textXML Full-text
Abstract: Nature has provided humankind with food, fuel, and shelter throughout evolutionary history. However, in contemporary cities, many natural landscapes have become degraded and replaced with impermeable hard surfaces (e.g., roads, paving, car parks and buildings). The reversal of this trend is dynamic, complex and still in its infancy. There are many facets of urban greening initiatives involving multiple benefits, sensitivities and limitations. The aim of this paper is to develop a characterisation method of nature based solutions for designing and retrofitting in the built environment, and to facilitate knowledge transfer between disciplines and for design optimisation. Based on a review of the literature across disciplines, key characteristics could be organised into four groups: policy and community initiatives, multiple benefits assessment, topology, and design options. Challenges and opportunities for developing a characterisation framework to improve the use of nature based solutions in the built environment are discussed.
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Nature-Based Solutions for Urban Challenges)

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Open AccessArticle Linear Parks along Urban Rivers: Perceptions of Thermal Comfort and Climate Change Adaptation in Cyprus
1 The Cyprus Institute, Energy, Environment and Water Research Center, 20 Konstantinou Kavafi Street, Nicosia 2121, Cyprus
2 Faculty of Early Childhood Education, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, 13α Navarinou Street, Athens 10680, Greece
Sustainability 2016, 8(10), 1023; https://doi.org/10.3390/su8101023
Received: 2 August 2016 / Revised: 25 September 2016 / Accepted: 9 October 2016 / Published: 17 October 2016
Abstract | Cited by 7PDF Full-text (4171 KB) | HTML Full-textXML Full-text
Abstract: The development of green space along urban rivers could mitigate urban heat island effects, enhance the physical and mental well-being of city dwellers, and improve flood resilience. A linear park has been recently created along the ephemeral Pedieos River in the urban area of Nicosia, Cyprus. Questionnaire surveys and micrometeorological measurements were conducted to explore people’s perceptions and satisfaction regarding the services of the urban park. People’s main reasons to visit the park were physical activity and exercise (67%), nature (13%), and cooling (4%). The micrometeorological measurements in and near the park revealed a relatively low cooling effect (0.5 °C) of the park. However, the majority of the visitors (84%) were satisfied or very satisfied with the cooling effect of the park. Logistic regression analysis indicated that the odds of individuals feeling very comfortable under a projected 3 °C future increase in temperature would be 0.34 times lower than the odds of feeling less comfortable. The discrepancies between the observed thermal comfort index and people’s perceptions revealed that people in semi-arid environments are adapted to the hot climatic conditions; 63% of the park visitors did not feel uncomfortable at temperatures between 27 °C and 37 °C. Further research is needed to assess other key ecosystems services of this urban green river corridor, such as flood protection, air quality regulation, and biodiversity conservation, to contribute to integrated climate change adaptation planning.
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Nature-Based Solutions for Urban Challenges)

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Open AccessArticle Sustainable Stormwater Management: Examining the Role of Local Planning Capacity in Mitigating Peak Surface Runoff
Department of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning, Texas A&M University, 3137 TAMU, College Station, TX 77843-3137, USA
Sustainability 2016, 8(9), 763; https://doi.org/10.3390/su8090763
Received: 24 April 2016 / Revised: 21 July 2016 / Accepted: 25 July 2016 / Published: 31 August 2016
Abstract | Cited by 3PDF Full-text (751 KB) | HTML Full-textXML Full-text
Abstract: The Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the United States, is rich in natural resources. Its watershed has been impacted by excessive and degraded stormwater runoff from rapid urbanization. We used an empirical approach to investigate how local planning capacity in the Chesapeake Bay watershed affected stream flow. A multiple regression analysis was employed to examine to what extent that the planning factors and other contextual variables were associated with peak runoff. Counterintuitively, we found that sub-basins included in the sample jurisdictions with a relatively high plan quality score tend to generate higher volumes of peak runoff. Results further indicate that specific geographical, basin characteristic, and biophysical factors affected mean annual peak runoff significantly. Overall, our findings highlight the importance of local planning capacity and sustainable stormwater management concepts in mitigating excessive runoff.
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Nature-Based Solutions for Urban Challenges)

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Open AccessArticle Examining the Association between Physical Characteristics of Green Space and Land Surface Temperature: A Case Study of Ulsan, Korea
School of Urban and Environmental Engineering, Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology, 50 UNIST-gil, Ulju-gun, Ulsan, 689-798, Korea
Sustainability 2016, 8(8), 777; https://doi.org/10.3390/su8080777
Received: 9 May 2016 / Revised: 1 August 2016 / Accepted: 5 August 2016 / Published: 9 August 2016
Abstract | Cited by 6PDF Full-text (4658 KB) | HTML Full-textXML Full-text
Abstract: The rapid increase of impervious surfaces and the dense development that accompanies urban growth has reduced the amount of green space in urban landscapes and increased urban surface temperatures. Accordingly, the greening of urban spaces has been proposed as one approach to mitigating urban heat island (UHI) effects. To find the most practical green space design for reducing land surface temperatures (LSTs), we explored the effects of the physical characteristics of green spaces on cooling intensity and distance. The physical characteristics of green spaces were defined as shape, size, Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), and the land-use type of their surroundings. LANDSAT 8 images were used to examine 30 green spaces in Ulsan, Korea. The analytical results showed that the cooling effect was mainly observed within 120 m of a green area and that the intensity of the cooling effects did not exceed 3.0 K. A belt-shaped green space had a greater cooling distance compared to a compact green space. We also found that the NDVI and size of a green space had a positive but non-linear association with cooling intensity.
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Nature-Based Solutions for Urban Challenges)

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