Stanford University’s Natural Capital Project has released an open-source data and modeling platform to help policy makers and urban planners build more sustainable cities. The software – called Urban InVEST – will allow planners to map and visualize the human health and environmental benefits of green spaces.
“This software helps design cities that are better for both people and nature,” study co-author Anne Guerry said. “Urban nature is a multitasking benefactor — the trees on your street can lower temperatures so your apartment is cooler on hot summer days. At the same time, they’re soaking up the carbon emissions that cause climate change, creating a free, accessible place to stay healthy through physical activity and just making your city a more pleasant place to be.”
Urban InVEST is part of the Natural Capital Project’s existing free and open-source Integrated Valuation of Ecosystem Services and Tradeoffs (InVEST) platform. It combines data from NASA satellites, local weather stations, and census records to reveal connections between environmental conditions with social demographics and economic data. The software was tested by using it to analyze various cities across the globe.
“We’re answering three crucial questions with this software: where in a city is nature providing what benefits to people, how much of each benefit is it providing and who is receiving those benefits?” said lead study author Perrine Hamel, head of the Livable Cities Program at the Natural Capital Project.
The Natural Capital Project holds on-line training workshops throughout the year on all aspects of its InVEST platform. The research was published in the journal Urban Sustainability.