Climate Change and Urban Nature: Opportunities, Solutions, and Risks

        Climate Change and Urban Nature: Opportunities, Solutions, and Risks

          Article summary

          With more frequent extreme weather events and higher average temperatures, there is a clear need to address the impacts of climate change. These impacts are especially high risks for urban areas, as these landscapes already experience higher temperatures and risk of flooding due to the large amounts of impervious surfaces. With the majority of people living in cities and a growing influx of residents, the climate-related problems faced by urban residents represent a challenge to a significant portion of the global population.

          However, a potential solution to many of the challenges posed by climate change already exists within many cities. Urban natural areas provide a multitude of environmental benefits, from mitigating stormwater run off to reducing local temperatures. Despite the many benefits of urban natural areas, these spaces are often overlooked when it comes to landscape planning and funding. As a result, a valuable set of tools for mitigating climate change are often under maintained and underfunded. The lack of attention also increases the risk that climate change negatively impacts and damages these natural areas, reducing potential climate solutions and further exacerbating the impacts of climate change.

          With this report, we aim to highlight the potential climate mitigating impacts of urban natural areas as well as identify climate-related risks to these natural areas. We acknowledge that the intersection of climate change and urbanization is complex, and one report is unlikely to capture all of the different interactions within urban landscapes. Additionally, many reports explore how urban greenspace is integral to the sustainable design of cities. However, this report will serve as a resource specifically addressing the role of urban nature in the context of climate change. We also present explicit examples both of how urban nature can reduce climate impacts and how city governments and organizations are protecting urban nature from climate change. We recognize cities exist within a complex social governance framework so we focus on the direct impacts and opportunities.

          In a nutshell, this resource offers:

          • An overview of how increased temperature, extreme weather, and invasive species negatively impact urban natural areas.
          • A review of how different urban natural areas can help cities adapt to the impacts of climate change.
          • Case studies highlighting how urban natural area function in response to climate change.

          How to use this resource:

          • This report provides practitioners and planners with overview information on the impacts of climate change, which can fill knowledge gaps and be used as background for plans or reports.
          • Methods from case studies in this report can be replicated, and research highlights help justify the need to protect and manage urban natural areas.
          • Advocates can cite the benefits of urban natural areas described in this report to acquire funding and promote legislation protecting urban natural areas.

          Authors: Jeffrey A. Clark, Clara C. Pregitzer, Crystal A. Crown, Sophie Plitt, Mark A. Bradford, Fiona Jevon, Shijuan Chen, Juwon Kong, Michelle Mueller-Gamez

          Date published: March 5, 2024

          Point of contact: Jeffrey A. G. Clark at

          Citation: The Natural Areas Conservancy, Yale School of the Environment, Central Park Conservancy, New York City Department of Parks and Recreation

          Resource is available online here.


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