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Global climate-driven trade-offs between the water retention and cooling benefits of urban greening

Cuthbert, M. O. ORCID:, Rau, G. C., Ekstrom, M. ORCID:, O'Carroll, D. M. and Bates, A. J. 2022. Global climate-driven trade-offs between the water retention and cooling benefits of urban greening. Nature Communications 13 (1) , 518. 10.1038/s41467-022-28160-8

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Urban greening can potentially help mitigate heat-related mortality and flooding facing the >4 billion urban population worldwide. However, the geographical variation of the relative combined hydrological and thermal performance benefits of such interventions are unknown. Here we quantify globally, using a hydrological model, how climate-driven trade-offs exist between hydrological retention and cooling potential of urban greening such as green roofs and parks. Using a Budyko framework, we show that water retention generally increases with aridity in water-limited environments, while cooling potential favors energy-limited climates. Our models suggest that common urban greening strategies cannot yield high performance simultaneously for addressing both urban heat-island and urban flooding problems in most cities globally. Irrigation, if sustainable, may enhance cooling while maintaining retention performance in more arid locations. Increased precipitation variability with climate change may reduce performance of thinner green-infrastructure more quickly compared to greened areas with thicker soils and root systems. Our results provide a conceptual framework and first-order quantitative guide for urban development, renewal and policymaking.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Earth and Environmental Sciences
Additional Information: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
Publisher: Nature Research
ISSN: 2041-1723
Funders: NERC
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 10 February 2022
Date of Acceptance: 10 December 2021
Last Modified: 17 May 2023 08:47

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