Environmental Monitoring of Sweden's Urban Green Areas
Forests and woods close to the city and other urban green areas are of greater value to people’s health than unique, unspoiled nature far away.
Time spent outdoors in green spaces reduces stress and increases your wellbeing. Green areas encourage physical activities, such as walking, which in turn reduces the risk of developing a number of our most prevalent diseases. In Sweden, the forests close to cities and villages are increasing in importance as they are often people’s only contact with the natural world. Almost half of the Swedish population rarely leaves the city, and more than half of all visits to forests, are to forests and woods near the city.
Monitoring programme in development
National Inventory of Landscapes in Sweden (NILS) is a nation-wide environmental protection programme where the conditions and changes in the Swedish landscape are monitored. The programme started in 2003 and it is one of the environmental monitoring and assessment programmes run by the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), on the commission of Swedish authorities.
Scientist Marcus Hedblom is the project manager of `UrbanNILS´ (`TätortsNILS´), a project aiming to develop a monitoring programme of Sweden’s urban green areas. The main focus lies on biodiversity, but in addition an evaluation of social values are suggested to be included.
“So far, we've been poor at measuring other values than biological values. First, we asked ourselves if it’s really possible to measure human values without using time-demanding questionnaires,” says Marcus Hedblom.
In the newly developed programme, field assistants fill out a form and take photos of each green area, while inventorying its biodiversity.
“The area is marked by for instance its availability, complexity, resemblance to nature and disturbances such as noise. The marking and photos are then sent to experts, landscape architects, who evaluate the marking,” explains Marcus Hedblom.
The programme is still at a testing stage, but a number of Swedish authorities, including the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency and the Swedish National Board of Housing, Building and Planning, are interested in this kind of monitoring. It provides a better information basis for city planners, so that the goal of all people in Sweden living close to green spaces, easily accessible and of high quality, can be reached.
Uppsala City Park, Sweden. Photo: Marcus Hedblom