Utrecht, the Netherlands

The power of plants and natural ecosystems to deliver benefits

How is the initiative shaped by scientific evidence of the potential for plants and natural ecosystems to deliver benefits?

Healthy Urban Living is the motto with which we create our city. Green is an essential part of the environmental and human health (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0272494402001111)

When designing and adapting the city, we opt for greenery as much as possible, and as little as possible tiles or asphalt. We use facades and roofs for greenery. We try to ensure as much continuous greenery as possible and create green routes that allow animals and plants to reach new habitats. We opt for plants that grow here naturally, and which can also cope with the future climate.
For Wonderwoods, an appartement building with trees on the facades and on the roofs, the inspiration for indigenous trees and plants came from the nearby Utrechtse Heuvelrug (a national natural park). As known from scientific evidence local plants are essential for local insects and other animals (https://www.wur.nl/nl/show/de-ene-boom-is-de-andere-niet.htm)

How has the city exploited the potential of plants and associated ecosystems to deliver more than one benefit?

We are connecting the city and the surrounding natural landscape. This way our citizens can enjoy the green surroundings (and mentally recover the busy urban life) and the plants and animals from the natural and recreational parks can renature our city. This also gives endangered plant and animals species more room to live. By bringing nature back into the heart of our city, it also will bring our citizens more into contact with nature.

Greening our city also helps in mitigating the negative effects of climate change, such as the urban heat island effect, and the more frequently occurring heavy rain showers. We are removing obstacles in the city, allowing people to walk or cycle through long stretches of greenery thanks to the encircled canal it is possible for our citizens to walk and cycle along green corridors to the central station, or enjoy more green close to the densely populated historic city centre. These changes help us bring the landscape around the city closer to our inner city, while making the city more resistant to climate change at the same time.