Ecosystem services are essential to our well-being and can improve our living conditions. Nature-based solutions are natural and semi-natural solutions that use ecosystem services for identified problems, such as stormwater management, erosion risk, cooling of air temperature on a hot day or reduced risks of flooding from heavy rains.
Nature plays a major part in human health. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), all people living in cities should not be further away than 300 meters from the nearest green area. Research shows a clear correlation between access to green areas and well-being. At the same time, physical and mental health problems are growing problems, which can be reduced by spending time in green environments. Access to and visits in green areas can also contribute to reduced stress, lower risk of some types of cancer and lower blood pressure.
Ecosystem services lead to many positive effects
Ecosystems are our living green infrastructures and are as important to societies as buildings and infrastructure. In urban areas, plants and animals deliver a wide range of products and services. Plants give us oxygen, food and building materials and protect us from extreme weather. Bees and other insects pollinate our crops. Wetlands and green areas clean rain and snow water from heavy metals and other toxic substances. Trees can lower temperatures in a city by 2 degrees and locally up to 9 degrees. Ecosystem services can also help create cleaner air and water and reduce noise. These are just some of the services available by using nature-based solutions.
Using ecosystem services to prevent the effects of natural disasters and extreme weather conditions is often cost-effective, multifunctional and provide environmental, social and economic benefits and create resilience. Ecosystem services could be used in the shape of technically advanced green roofs and facades, urban gardens or vertical farming, beekeeping, permeable surface water/rainwater/run-off from road solutions or urban wetlands, parks and urban woods.
Ecosystem services in Sweden
In Sweden, the work to integrate these services into urban planning for smart cities is an ongoing process and has this far led to many examples for innovative solutions and collaborations between sectors and national, regional and local authorities. By perceiving and valuing ecosystem services, we can affect our future well-being and quality of life.
Sweden strives towards integrating the benefits of ecosystem services in several sectors of urban planning and the long-time management of cities. Integrating ecosystem services in urban development is important for many of the Sustainable Development Goals, especially goals number 3. Good health and well-being, 6. Clean water and sanitation, 11. Sustainable cities and communities 12. Sustainable consumption and production, 13. Climate action, and 15. Life on land.