Finnish Environment Institute | Suomen ympäristökeskus | Finlands miljöcentral

sykefi header valkoinen

VACCIA Action 6: Assessment of climate change and land use impacts in urban environments


Today, over 50% of the global human population lives in cities. The urban population is estimated to grow rapidly still in the future. Increased human population and the consequent urbanization are the most important factors causing global change. This Action links together two different approaches to global change: land use and climate change. It develops ways for measuring and assessing climate change by collecting information on land use in urban environments, thereby producing further developed and better applicable policy-making and planning tools for governance at different levels aiming at adaptation and mitigation of climate change.

The increased amount of sealed surfaces covering soils in urban environments (due to extended and intensified land use) together with increased precipitation due to climate change causes a substantial increase in the often polluted surface runoff waters. These city-derived waters cause increasing amount of problems to both surface and ground waters. Furthermore, the various life-supporting ecosystem services (such as detoxification of pollutants, purification of water, nutrient cycling etc.) taken care by soils are hampered due to the covering of urban soils. Interestingly, the quality of urban soils, and the quality and quantity of surface runoff waters offer a relevant, hitherto non-used estimation as to how urban ecosystems are functioning. We propose to adopt this approach to explore the vulnerability of ecosystem services to both climate change and land use in urbanised areas through several multidisciplinary approaches. Sealed surfaces, runoff waters, urban green areas, density of the urban structure, land use patterns, and socio-economic level and distribution of households all have a role in the ability of the urban ecosystem to impact and adapt to climate change.

The project sites are the city of Lahti complemented by selected smaller urban areas in the cities of the Helsinki metropolitan region. The sites cover (i) new “greenfield” areas in the beginning of the development process, (ii) developed, fixed urban structure, (iii) areas under rapid development and (iv) re-development, often including severe contamination problems.

Methods employed 

The project employs Geographical Information System (GIS) methods to unravel the connections between land use change and alterations taking place in environmental, social, and economic variables. In that work urban areas will be split to statistical units within which the environmental, social and economic data will be studied. In these sub-units with varying land use patterns and intensities, runoff waters will be monitored (quantified and qualified) to give an estimate of ecosystem functioning at a given site. Land use policy documents will be analysed, figures of individual development projects collected and basic economic indicators used in order to provide necessary qualitative and quantitative socio-economic information. Long-term data collected by the regional and local authorities is available for the group. Field monitoring of vegetation and selected animal groups will be initiated. Surveys of residents’ view on changes in aesthetic and recreational values of green areas will be conducted to form basis for future monitoring.

Expected results

  • Established joint (multidisciplinary) approach to analyse mutual impacts of climate change and land use. Production of multi-disciplinary data in an assimilated form for stakeholders’ use.
  • An intensified utilisation of high-level knowledge in climate change adaptation and land use planning. Increase of information, improved usability of information in governance at different levels.
  • Recommendations and thresholds for climate change adaptation in urban environments, com-bining precipitation and urbanization, land use and land cover.
  • Supporting the development of new tools for mitigation of local environmental (climate change) risks.
  • Dissemination material (web-material, reports) and stakeholder seminars.

Contact person

Jussi Kulonpalo, University of Helsinki,

Published 2013-05-06 at 11:03, updated 2013-05-06 at 11:03