Urban nature

The urban and peri-urban green areas, with their plant and animal biodiversity, play an increasingly important role both for the environmental sustainability of cities and for the citizens’ quality of life. Parks, gardens, tree-lined streets and many other types of green areas, located in more or less urbanized municipal territories, provide several ecosystem services, such as: the regulation of the microclimate, which improves the urban comfort, open spaces for people recreation and mental well-being, habitat for plant and animal species. They also ensure a regular water runoff, reducing therefore the risk of instability. They contribute to the urban landscape re-qualification and are privileged places for the environmental education of future generations.
In the major research reports on the state of the environment, it’s no coincidence that the presence and accessibility of green areas in the cities are among the most commonly adopted environmental indicators, both at local, national and international level. Since the first edition of the ISPRA’s Report "Urban environmental quality", a whole chapter is dedicated to the issues of urban nature intended as a set of green areas characterized by different uses, values ​​and functions: from the historic city parks to the school and agricultural green areas, from landscaping plants to protected natural areas. All these pieces of urban nature represent the green infrastructure of our cities that interact with the gray infrastructure (roads, buildings, etc.).
The indicators used in the ISPRA’s Report to monitor and assess the status of the city's green heritage measure the presence and availability of the different types of green (urban green, agricultural areas, protected natural areas) but also the number of management tools and legal provisions (such as trees inventories, regulations and plans of the green) adopted by each municipalities. It also analyzes the various aspects of biodiversity: animal and plant species that live in Natura 2000 sites, located within the municipal boundaries of the cities surveyed, the specific studies on the fauna present in the municipalities, with particular reference to the ornithological atlases and those related to amphibians and reptiles. Further insights are provided on allochthonous species - that is those animal or plant species not originating in a given geographical area - with special reference to alien species of birds present in our cities.
In addition to these issues, addressed in almost all editions of the Report, each year specific insights about urban nature enrich the Report, addressing issues such as monumental trees, urban and peri-urban forests, citizens’involvement in the knowledge of urban nature, the role of plants in the mitigation of air pollution, the animal communities along gradients of urbanization, etc.
All is aimed at describing the great diversity of types and functions of urban and peri-urban green areas and at providing planners and administrators suitable decision tools for the development of policies more attentive to integrate the multi-functionality of green infrastructure as part of the most complex politics of urban sustainability.

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