Using geospatial data for decision making in urban areas
In Costa Rica, the "Atlas Verde" supports sustainable urban development.
Costa Rica is a small country, but it contains 5% of the world’s biodiversity. Even though it is home to a great natural treasure, it faces huge socio-environmental challenges, especially in the urban areas.
The use of technology to identify the main environmental problems that the nation confronts is essential in order to act based on current and precise information.
Urban ecosystems provide climate protection, biodiversity and quality of life
The Greater Metropolitan Area (GAM) is Costa Rica’s main urban agglomeration. It contains half of the entire population in only 4% of the national territory.
The well-being of the population depends largely on the presence of functional green spaces, as they provide a number of ecosystem services such as provision of recreational areas, regulate the microclimate, reduce flooding, protect against landslides, and provide space for pollinating insects.
In addition, functional green spaces have the potential to convert the GAM’s cities into a region of social economic prosperity and welfare, and of healthy coexistence with the environment, if they are integrated as strategic elements into public policies design and urban planning regulations.
Costa Rica’s institutions that are responsible for urban development begin to understand the close relation between the city’s ecosystems and population welfare, but they also need supportive tools for the formulation of efficient strategies that integrates biodiversity and ecosystem services (green infrastructure) in the decision-making processes.
The Green Atlas
The Atlas of Greater Metropolitan Area's Ecosystem Services - the "Green Atlas" or "Atlas Verde" for short - is a tool that makes geospatial data available. It was developed with the support of the International Climate Initiative (IKI) to characterise and quantify the benefits of urban ecosystem services. The atlas provides data and information on land cover and land use, available green infrastructure, existing biodiversity, ecological connectivity and land warming in the main cities of Costa Rica.
It helps civil society organisations, non-governmental organisations, local governments, central government institutions and the scientific community to develop strategies for specific areas: They all can use the "Atlas Verde" to identify green spaces that need to be preserved or expanded, as well as vulnerable zones where the implementation of natural solutions as part of public infrastructure is urgently needed.
Application of the Green Atlas in practice
The Atlas consists of a platform to visualize and consult maps, geographic data and associated statistics created for the GAM, grouped into six thematic components.
In 2021, the local government of the County of Cartago in the south part of the GAM ran a data analysis using the Green Atlas, in which one of the main results was the identification of heat islands with temperatures up to 57,5 C°. This has led the local government to propose strategic actions in the legal, institutional, financial, and technical fields. They assigned budget in the annual operational plan to finance Nature-Based Solutions in the identified heat islands.
This would increase the quantity and quality of functional green areas and decrease local temperature in the long term. This would in turn also reduce associated diseases and indisposition in the local population.
The tool s is available online and its access is free to any user via www.atlasverde.org
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