The EKLIPSE network is a project funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme that aims to, ‘build a Network of Networks: a virtual community of people that are willing and committed to work with colleagues to make sure their collective knowledge and values on biodiversity and ecosystem services are used to support decisions that impact our environment and our wellbeing.’ EKLIPSE plus the European Platform for Biodiversity Research Strategy (EPBRS) and the BiodivERsA ERA-Net jointly organised a foresight workshop in Brussels in December 2016 on ‘Social innovation and nature-based solutions: What research is needed to face future societal challenges and emerging issues?’
The participatory workshop explored how nature-based solutions (NBS) can be a response to, or a catalyst for, social innovation to address emerging issues in relation to human well-being and health, governance strategies, land planning and management, and restoration. The following document is a briefing paper developed from the workshop’s findings and outputs and highlights the key research needs to best support and promote nature-based solutions through social innovations in response to current societal issues. More information is available here
There is a high potential for NBS to address environmental and social challenges such
as loss of social cohesion, health, social inequity, loss of connection between people and nature, and inadequate governance models. Proposed NBS for example relating to multiple-purpose green and blue spaces in cities could be seen as multi-functional tools to reach many concurring benefits including educational, psychological, social and economic needs.
NBS and social innovation initiatives should be further developed through research on:
- Assessing the effectiveness of NBS especially in terms of co-benefits:
environmental, social and economic, including research on criteria for measuring effectiveness, trade-offs and synergies between impacts and benefits.
- Holistic/systemic and trans-disciplinary processes to be both used and catalysed
by NBS in land, water, city planning and management.
However, there are also limitations for NBS development and implementation and these are not always understood in the same way especially as an NBS should also increase the benefit for the environment and not just ensure it is “doing no harm”. Several articles have compiled information on NBS added value and limits and EKLIPSE has published an impact evaluation framework for NBS in relation to climate resilience in cities (Raymond et al. 2017).
Finally, NBS are not very well known as a concept by the wider public although many NGOs and other stakeholders may already be working on similar approaches under different names, e.g. green infrastructures, greening cities, ecosystem-based approaches, etc. Such initiatives would need more political and economic backing if they are to be used more widely, and bring effective opportunities.
In addition, EKLIPSE has launched a new “Call for requests” that will run until October 2nd.
- Invitation to request knowledge for informed decision-making
Policy and other societal actors are invited to identify topics or evidence needs relating to biodiversity and ecosystem services and of EU policy relevance, requiring in-depth analysis and a consolidated view from science and other knowledge holders. We particularly encourage the building of consortia representing policy, research, NGOs or individual applications from policy or other societal actors.
Interested parties – including consortia – should apply by 2nd October 2017 by following the rules and procedures detailed below. The selected requests will be announced week starting 13th November, 2017 and will be publicized on the EKLIPSE website.
More information on the processes and the EKLIPSE project funded by the EU in H2020 is available at http://www.eklipse-mechanism.eu
- Objective of the call
EKLIPSE coordinates innovative and transparent approaches for science, policy and societal actors to jointly provide the best available evidence leading to better informed decision-making. The topic and/or evidence needs are identified by policy and other societal actors. The objective of this call is to encourage policy and other societal actors to suggest topics and/or evidence needs to be addressed by EKLIPSE.
- Natural capital is a term used to describe those elements of the natural environment that provide benefits for humans.
- In 2015, the Natural Capital Committee, a Government advisory group, made nine recommendations on how to account for natural capital. These included the creating of a 25-year plan for the environment.
- Valuing natural capital in this way can help to manage environmental risks and to inform a wide range of decisions.
- There are a number of challenges to accounting for natural capital including a lack of financial, environmental and social data and the UK’s use of other countries’ natural capital.
It has been estimated that the UK’s population will rise by nearly 10 million in the next 25 years, increasing demands on natural resources. Evidence suggests that degradation of ecosystems will negatively affect human wellbeing. Reports such as the UN’s Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and The Economics of Ecosystem and Biodiversity (TEEB) global reports have highlighted the importance of incorporating the natural environment into national accounting frameworks. One way to achieve this is through natural capital (NC) valuation.
What is Natural Capital?
NC is defined as ‘elements of nature that directly or indirectly produce value to people, including ecosystems, species, freshwater, land, minerals, the air and oceans’. The UK’s national accounts do not consider the depreciation of natural assets and many of the benefits of NC are not included in GDP. The failure to account properly for NC has led to a situation where benefits derived from natural assets are over-exploited for short term gains rather than maintained for their long term benefits. For example, the destruction of woodland to make way for a new railway would yield financial benefits from reduced transport time, but also incur costs from reductions in carbon sequestration, water filtration and recreational use. By assigning a value to these less obvious benefits of NC, advocates argue that they can be more easily incorporated into decision-making processes and that this would lead to better management of our natural assets. Many national and international NC groups exist, including the UK’s Natural Capital Committee (NCC). The NCC was initially set up for three years (2012 to 2015). Its final report made nine recommendations for improving the UK’s NC. The Government response broadly accepted five of these, including to establish a 25-year plan for the environment -recommendations 1, 2, 4, 6 and 9 – see below for details:
Natural Capital Committee Recommendations
The NCC was re-established this year (2016-2020) to provide advice on the development and implementation of the 25-year plan for the environment. The NCC has emphasised the importance of four unfunded ‘pioneer projects’ to Defra to identify good practice and innovative solutions for the plan. These 3-5 year projects include: a ‘Catchment’ Pioneer in Cumbria; an ‘Urban’ Pioneer in the Greater Manchester area; a ‘Landscape’ Pioneer in North Devon; and a ‘Marine’ Pioneer across two sites, one in East Anglia and an additional component in Devon to complement the Landscape Pioneer.
Renewable and Non-Renewable Natural Capital
Natural capital assets are divided into two classes: nonrenewable and renewable.
- Non-renewable assets cannot regenerate within human timescales and so can only be used once. These assets are traded and therefore have a market price, they include fossil fuels (oil and gas) and minerals such as lithium and phosphorous.
- Renewable assets such as forests, fish and peat bogs can provide benefits indefinitely so long as they are exploited sustainably. However, renewable assets are frequently degraded through the unsustainable management practices such as deforestation, over-fishing and drainage.
POST is an office of both Houses of Parliament, charged with providing independent and balanced analysis of policy issues that have a basis in science and technology.
Source: Vandermeulen, V., Verspecht, A., Vermeire, B. et al. (2011) The use of economic valuation to create public support for green infrastructure investments in urban areas. Landscape and Urban Planning. 103:198-206.
With increasing urbanisation and its subsequent negative effects on the environment, the need for green spaces is becoming increasingly recognised. Although it is difficult to define ‘Green infrastructure’, a network of open spaces, parks, waterways, trees and woodland that protect and enhance nature, and provide health and economic benefits, presents a possible solution to this problem. Decision makers need to know that investment in it will provide an economic return at both a regional and a community scale.
Using results from the EU VALUE project (1), the study produced a combined local-regional economic valuation model for assessing green infrastructure investment. At the project level, the study applied a cost-benefit analysis, using the concept of ‘Total Economic Value’, which attempts to capture the value of the different components of natural resources. Costs considered by this approach include land purchasing costs, design and construction costs and maintenance costs of the infrastructure, whilst benefits include production and regulating ecosystem services such as air quality improvement and climate change mitigation, as well as improved health from cycling, reduced accident risks, as well as recreational benefits. At the regional level, a ‘multiplier analysis’ was used, based on an input-output approach to consider not only the positive impact on local industry, but also on wages and the subsequent impact from better wages and job creation on the regional economy.
To illustrate how this two-tier model could be applied, the researchers used a case study of a proposed green cycle route in Bruges, Belgium, which is expected to lead to a 5% increase in cyclists. The example represents only a few aspects of multi-functional green infrastructure – an approach which is aimed at directly improving ecosystem health and resilience and contributing to conserving biodiversity (2). But it represents a type of project that contributes to the health and welfare of urban dwellers and brings environmental benefits to urban areas. Values were calculated for a 20 year timeframe. Examples of costs at the project-level were the construction of the bicycle road, indirect costs arising from tax increases and lost opportunity costs owing to farmers giving up land.
Evaluated benefits included the avoided car costs, tourist expenditure, improved traffic safety and positive health effects of cycling leading to lower health care costs and less absence from work. Alongside this were the environmental benefits effects of improved air quality and climate change mitigation. Using the cost-benefit approach, environmental benefits alone were estimated at €608,894 over 20 years, whilst the total value of green infrastructure at project level was estimated to be €1,707,169, which also included benefits from improved road safety, health and recreation. Regional additional effects were valued at €3,885,723, more than twice as high as the project effects. Most of the regional value is created by the multiplier effect of the investments in the project. The total value of the cycle belt is therefore €5,592,892, when project and regional values are combined over a 20 year period.
The researchers suggest that the model provides a useful complement to traditional cost-benefit approaches by highlighting the indirect economic benefits of green infrastructure. It can help convince stakeholders of the importance of investing in green infrastructure and allow policymakers to balance issues of community and economy growth, environmental protection and quality of life. They highlight that in addition to data limitations, the objectives of the evaluation will define or limit the inclusion of different types of benefits and costs in the evaluation exercise. If full benefits were included, such as stress reduction and emotional benefits, then the outcomes would be more positive, whereas if costs, such as automobile industry losses, were included, then the investment would seem less positive.
1. VALUE (Valuing Attractive Landscapes in the Urban Economy) is supported by the European Commission through the Interreg IVB programme. See: http://www.value-landscapes.eu
2. European Commission’s webpage on Green Infrastructure. See: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/ecosystems/index_en.htm
Source: Vandermeulen, V., Verspecht, A., Vermeire, B. et al. (2011) The use of economic valuation to create public support for green infrastructure investments in urban areas. Landscape and Urban Planning. 103:198-206.
“We believe that greater priority needs to be given to prevention of ill health in public health and social care. All those involved in creating healthy places – public health professionals, planners and landscape architects – need to recognise that landscape has enormous potential to improve our health and wellbeing.”
Source: Honold, J., Lakes, T., Beyer, R. & van der Meer, E. (2015). Restoration in Urban Spaces: Nature Views From Home, Greenways, and Public Parks. Environment and Behavior. 1-30. DOI: 10.1177/0013916514568556.
Urban nature — such as trees and public parks — is beneficial to human health. A number of studies have found that living close to nature can have immediate positive effects on mental and physical health. However, the longer term health impact of urban nature remains poorly understood. This study investigated how exposure to nature affects health in residents of two inner city neighbourhoods in Berlin. The researchers investigated the links between different kinds of urban nature, including green spaces and views of vegetation from the home, and health. To do this, they assessed life satisfaction, perceived general health and levels of cortisol — commonly known as the stress hormone — in hair samples from 32 participants.
Changed patterns of cortisol in the blood have been linked to depression and psychological stress. Over time, elevated levels of cortisol suppress the immune system and can therefore also contribute to other illness. The authors hypothesised that the amount and diversity of vegetation visible from the home would affect health. They also thought that more regular use of public green spaces could encourage better health.
They found that views of vegetation from the home (as assessed by photographs) and the use of green spaces (determined by interview) were linked to the amount of cortisol in participants’ hair. Participants’ hair cortisol levels were lowest when their view was of both a high vegetation quantity and diversity. No significant link was found between the view from the home and self-reported general health or life satisfaction.
When assessing the use of green spaces, the researchers found one of the most frequently visited areas to be a local canal with a highly vegetated trail. People who used this trail at least once a week had significantly lower cortisol levels than less frequent users and reported higher life satisfaction, although they did not differ in general health.
Overall, this study suggests that exposure to urban nature in different forms could be related to lower cortisol levels and better life satisfaction, which corresponds with findings made in other countries and continents.
These results provide important considerations for urban development and suggest that adding diverse vegetation to residential streets and backyards, and developing more urban greenways, has the potential to improve human health. The authors recommend that local authorities use this information when designing sustainable and healthy urban areas.
While the authors do note limitations to the study, including sample size, the methods used to analyse vegetation and the extent to which cortisol correlates with stress and health outcomes, their findings have been reinforced by other research. They also propose that hair cortisol analysis could provide a promising new health indicator for future research.
The Dalston Eastern Curve Garden in east London is a thriving community garden, developed on a small piece of derelict railway land by landscape architects J & L Gibbons, with muf art/architecture and Exyzt. The video shows some of the improvements in community health and wellbeing that the garden has brought, providing an oasis in the heart of a busy, noisy, high-density part of the city, where public green space is severely lacking.
This is the first in a series of Landscape Institute videos on landscape and health, featuring some of the landscape projects that illustrated the 2013 publication ‘Public health and landscape: creating healthy places’.
The Landscape Institute’s report, ‘Public Health and Landscape – Creating healthy places’ states that it’s not only people’s physical environment that affects their health and wellbeing; there are many relevant personal and social factors too. In order to plan, design and manage places so that they positively influence the health and wellbeing of communities, we need to identify and work with all these factors. They are called the ‘determinants of health’, and were first referred to by Dahlgren and Whitehead in 1991 in their landmark paper, ‘What can be done about inequalities in health?’ We use them to underpin the following five principles that we believe are essential to the creation of healthy places:
- Healthy places improve air, water and soil quality, incorporating measures that help us adapt to, and where possible mitigate, climate change
- Healthy places help overcome health inequalities and can promote healthy lifestyles
- Healthy places make people feel comfortable and at ease, increasing social interaction and reducing anti-social behaviour, isolation and stress
- Healthy places optimise opportunities for working, learning and development
- Healthy places are restorative, uplifting and healing for both physical and mental health conditions
Following on from the LI’s focus on landscape and health here are 4 recently published research papers of interest:
- Urban planning and the importance of green space in cities to human and environmental health: http://tinyurl.com/qa7ck9h
- Urban parks and fall walks lead to lower levels of negative emotions and anxiety: http://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/12/11/14216
- Green space and mental health: pathways, impacts and gaps: http://tinyurl.com/js9em72
- The influence of neighbourhood green space on children’s physical activity and screen time: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26419752/
This post highlights 2 recent research papers focusing on the links between health benefits and exposure to green infrastructure.
“Green spaces and cognitive development in primary schoolchildren.” – Dadvand, P., Nieuwenhuijsen, M., Esnaola, M., Forns, J., Basagaña, X., Alvarez- Pedrerol, M., Rivas, I., López-Vicente, M., De Castro Pascual, M., Su, J., Jerrett, M., Querol, X. & Sunyer, J.. (2015). Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 112(26): 7937–7942. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1503402112
Exposure of primary schoolchildren to outdoor green spaces is linked to an improvement in their cognitive development, finds a new study, which is the first of its kind. The association may be partly explained by reductions in traffic-related air pollution (TRAP) near green areas.
Approximately half of the global population live in cities, and it is projected that by 2030, three of every five persons (60%) will live in urban areas worldwide. Yet urban areas are characterised by increased levels of pollutants and fewer green spaces. Several studies have linked exposure to urban green spaces to improved physical and mental health and wellbeing (1.) Children may be particularly susceptible to the psychological effects of the urban environment, as key cognitive traits are developed during infancy and childhood.
Researchers have now investigated the association between exposure to green spaces and memory and attention in children. They also evaluated the role of TRAP as one of the potential mechanisms underlying this association. This new study took place in the context of the EU-funded Barcelona BREATHE project (2.) which investigates the possible effects of traffic-related air pollution TRAP on brain development in children.
In the 36 primary schools taking part in BREATHE, 58% of children aged 7–10 (2 623) agreed to participate. Children were evaluated four times every three months over a year, using computerised tests to assess their working memory and attention, both of which grow steadily during adolescence. The ‘greenness’ around each child’s home address, within and near their school and along their commute to school was measured using satellite imagery and the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index, a measure of greenness based on reflected light. The values were combined with variables such as time spent in school or at home to estimate each child’s total exposure to greenness. Models were constructed to evaluate the association between green spaces and cognitive development. The research leading to the methodology (PHENOTYPE) used in this study to assess exposure to green spaces received funding from the Commission’s Seventh Framework Programme (3.)
The researchers found that a higher level of exposure to green spaces was associated with improved cognitive development. More specifically, this consisted of a median score of 5% improvement in working memory, 6% increase in superior working memory, and a 1% reduction in inattentiveness. This was attributable specifically for greenness within and near schools. There was no association between residential surrounding greenness and cognitive measurements.
The researchers also investigated whether reduced levels of TRAP could explain the association between green spaces and cognitive development. High-quality data on exposure to the air pollutant elemental carbon (EC) — a tracer of road traffic emissions — in the schools was available through BREATHE. Previous analyses had found lower levels of EC in schools with higher greenness. Adding TRAP exposure to the models explained 20–65 % of the association between school greenness and change in cognitive development. The researchers theorise other mechanisms may include lower exposure to ambient noise and increased physical activity associated with green spaces.
The study provides evidence that targeted interventions such as improving greenness in schools could have significant effects on children’s cognitive development. Based on their study, the authors suggest that if schools with the lowest levels of greenness increased this resource to be on a par with schools with the highest greenness, the number of children with impaired superior working memory development would decrease by 8.8%. The improved cognitive development in children could lead to improved mental capabilities for the rest of their lives. Since this was the first epidemiological study to report on the impact of exposure to green space on cognitive development in schoolchildren, further research is needed to investigate the robustness of these findings. Additional research should explore if similar effects are found during other periods of cognitive development in children, such as prenatal and preschool periods.
Landscape Institute’s, “Public health and landscape: creating healthy places” Position Statement (November 2013). Download A4 version
“Positive health effects of the natural outdoor environment in typical populations in different regions in Europe (PHENOTYPE): a study programme protocol.” – Mark J Nieuwenhuijsen, Hanneke Kruize, Christopher Gidlow, Sandra Andrusaityte, Josep Maria Antó, Xavier Basagaña, Marta Cirach, Payam Dadvand, Asta Danileviciute, David Donaire-Gonzalez, Judith Garcia, Michael Jerrett, Marc Jones, Jordi Julvez, Elise van Kempen, Irene van Kamp, Jolanda Maas, Edmund Seto, Graham Smith, Margarita Triguero, Wanda Wendel-Vos, John Wright, Joris Zufferey, Peter Jan van den Hazel, Roderick Lawrence and Regina Grazuleviciene. British Medical Journal, BMJ Open 2014;4:e004951 doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2014-004951.
Growing evidence suggests that close contact with nature brings benefits to human health and well-being, but the proposed mechanisms are still not well understood and the associations with health remain uncertain. The Positive Health Effects of the NaturalOutdoor environment in Typical Populations in different regions in Europe (PHENOTYPE) project investigates the interconnections between natural outdoor environments and better human health and well-being. This project is a Collaborative Project funded through the European Commission Seventh Framework Programme
Urban planners should be given guidelines to include a minimum amount of green space in cities, according to researchers who have found that exposure to parks and trees helps to prolong life, improve mental health and even increase the birthweight of babies.
Professor Mark Nieuwenhuijsen from the Center for Research in Environmental Epidemiology (CREAL) in Barcelona, Spain, says that access to nature does not merely top up your wellbeing, but it might actually be a necessary condition for good health. Prof. Nieuwenhuijsen coordinates the EU-funded PHENOTYPE project (4.), which is aiming to build up the evidence base for so-called urban greening by understanding how exactly it can influence your health and why. The idea is to feed into decisions made by landscape architects, urban planners and policymakers.
‘Lack of green space causes detrimental health effects,’ he said. ‘Green space is necessary for healthy psychophysiological functioning (and) there could be a set level for good health.’
This is important as more than half of the world’s population lives in urban areas, a figure which is set to grow more than 1 % per year between now and 2030. However, there is currently no agreement on just how much greenery cities should contain for optimal health.
‘At the moment there are no guidelines for green space. It would be nice to be able to give more information to urban planning to make sure that there’s provision of green space. How much green space do you need? There are questions still remaining.’
PHENOTYPE researchers are conducting studies of the health effects of green space in four different parts of Europe: Lithuania, the Netherlands, the UK and Spain. So far they have found that an increase in surrounding greenness leads to higher birth weight for babies, reduced blood pressure during pregnancy, and lower obesity levels in children. They have also found that an increase in surrounding greenness is associated with better mental health and self-perceived physical health. The project is also uncovering suggestions that not all greenery is equal. Prof. Nieuwenhuijsen says that being surrounded by greenery, such as living on streets lined with trees or being able to see vegetation from your office window, may have greater health benefits than having access to a park.
Initial indications are that it is more complicated than the fact that living close to a park could encourage people to take more exercise and lead an active lifestyle. In a study of coronary artery patients in Kaunas, Lithuania, researchers found that people benefitted more from walking in parks than when they did the same amount of exercise but walked on busy urban streets.
Prof. Nieuwenhuijsen says that there is some good evidence that the reason behind this effect could be a reduction in stress levels. ‘There are some studies that show a reduced blood flow in the subgenual prefrontal cortex (which controls stress) when people are exposed to green space.’ Other mechanisms could include a reduction in air pollution and an increase in social contacts. While the exact mechanisms are still under investigation, Prof. Nieuwenhuijsen believes that humans are hard-wired to appreciate the benefits of vegetation.
- The BRain dEvelopment and Air polluTion ultrafine particles in scHool childrEn (BREATHE) was supported by the European Research Council. See: http://www.cordis.europa.eu/project/rcn/99632_en.html
- Positive Health Effects of the Natural Outdoor environment in Typical Populations in different regions in Europe (PHENOTYPE) project was funded through the European Commission Seventh Framework Programme: http://www.staffs.ac.uk/research/
- PHENOTYPE – intended to provide a better understanding of the potential mechanisms, and better integration of human health needs into land use planning and green space management.
The national survey on people and the natural environment
In 2009 Natural England, Defra and the Forestry Commission undertook the Monitor of Engagement with the Natural Environment (MENE) survey for the first time. The data enables Natural England, its partners and data users to:
- Understand how people use, enjoy and are motivated to protect the natural environment.
- Monitor changes in use of the natural environment over time, at a range of different spatial scales and for key groups within the population.
- Inform on-the-ground initiatives to help them link more closely to people’s needs.
- Evaluate the impact and effectiveness of related policy and initiatives.
- Measure the impact of and inform policy relating to the natural environment.
This report presents the findings for the fifth year of MENE fieldwork from March 2013 to February 2014. In addition to providing descriptive statistics on people’s use and enjoyment of the outdoors, new analysis of the survey findings was undertaken to look deeper at several key topics such as health and wellbeing, expenditure, and the gap between valuing the natural environment, and taking action to conserve it. In doing so, Natural England has broadened the range of experts involved in the production of the report to include specialists in economics, health, and marketing sciences. To view a post on last year’s click here: Monitor of Engagement with the Natural Environment
This survey aims to provide information about the relationship between people and the natural environment. Whilst the main focus of the survey is on visits to the natural environment, it also seeks to capture other ways of using or enjoying the natural environment such as time spent in the garden and watching nature programmes on television. The main focus of the survey is on leisure visits outdoors in the natural environment, away from home and private gardens. This could be anything from a few minutes to all day. These may include time spent close to a person’s home or workplace, further afield or while on holiday in England. Routine shopping trips or time spent in a person’s own garden are not included in the definition of a leisure visit in MENE.
- Around nine in ten members of the English adult population visited the outdoors at least once in the last twelve months, while around two-fifths had taken a visit within the last seven days.
- It is estimated that between March 2013 and February 2014, the 42.3 million adults resident in England took a total of 2.93 billion visits to the natural environment. The majority were taken to destinations within towns/cities (1.36 billion) or countryside locations (1.31 billion).
- Around a quarter of visits involved some form of expenditure – resulting in an estimated spend of £17 billion between March 2013 and February 2014.
- Parks in towns and cities were the most frequently visited destination type, accounting for 778 million visits.
- Walking was by far the most frequently undertaken activity. Half of visits (an estimated 1.5 billion visits) involved walking with a dog while around a quarter (an estimated 775 million visits) involved walking without a dog.
- Three-quarters of visits were less than two hours in duration, while two-thirds involved walking to the visit destination. Almost four-fifths were taken within two miles of the visit start point.
- Visiting the natural environment for health or exercise accounted for an estimated 1.3 billion visits to the natural environment between March 2013 and February 2014. Factors relating to a lack of time were most likely to be cited as reasons for not visiting more often or at all.
To read the full report click here.
A series of further outputs based on additional analysis of the MENE data are also available from: