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Disentangling the benefits provided by urban trees for nature-based solution planning: from urban cooling to sociocultural services


Nature-based solutions, such as urban tree planting, significantly contribute to the mitigation of climate-related issues in cities including urban heat islands, air pollution and the loss of ecosystem multifunctionality. However, the effectiveness of trees for specific ecosystem services such as thermal cooling and the mitigation of air pollution remains largely theoretical, thereby impairing our ability to sustainably manage, restore and develop urban ecosystems.

Moreover, fragmentary assessments of urban ecosystem services like those derived from a city’s tree population limit the possibilities of nature-based solutions, while hampering social participation in their planning processes due to the lack of graspable information on citizen-level benefits.

Using the city of Geneva as a test platform, our goals are to:

  1. establish the link between climate variability, tree transpiration and urban cooling potential for a broad range of tree species in diverse urban settings (ecology/ecophysiology),
  2. measure and map urban particulate matter production, ozone and pollen production from trees at a high temporal resolution to model the effect of trees as depositional sink (atmospheric chemistry), and
  3. conduct a contributive assessment and digital mapping of the sociocultural ecosystem services derived from Geneva’s tree population in order to address their current valuation and establish future planning methodologies (social urban science).

Through a combination of high-resolution field measurements, modelling and participatory workshops in the fields of plant ecology, atmospheric chemistry and social urban science, we expect our work to lead to the elaboration of feasible nature-based solutions strategies for our cities where environmental, sociocultural, and infrastructural factors are fully co-considered.