Urban climate resilience – conserving and enhancing the contribution of hinterland landscapes

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CURE Co-Director Jeremy Carter reflects on the different ways in which one of our ongoing projects – Climate Proof Cities – engages with issues of resilience, urban change and the regional landscape. 

Climate change and extreme weather events pose a major challenge to urban areas. There is a strong imperative to develop and implement adaptation strategies and actions in responses. The hinterlands around cities and urban areas offer valuable functions that have the potential to lessen weather and climate risks within urban centres. These functions cover diverse issues including local food production, cool air transfer, recreation opportunities and flood water attenuation and storage. Equally, development and land use change in hinterland landscapes may amplify climate change impacts in urban centres, for example through increasing runoff into watercourses.

Research ongoing within the Dutch government funded Climate Proof Cities project is seeking to better understand the nature of the interactions between urban hinterlands and centres in the context of adapting to extreme weather and climate risks. The University of Manchester team are collaborating with the University of Delft who are developing a similar project focusing on The Hague. The broad aim is to produce comparative research outputs on landscape scale ‘climate buffers’ that target the reduction of weather and climate risk in urban areas.

The spatial focus of the University of Manchester project, which is led by a team based at the Centre for Urban Resilience and Energy with support from the Mersey Forest, is on the urban Mersey basin. This encompasses the cities of Manchester and Liverpool and their hinterlands. Our thematic focus is green infrastructure functions that have the potential to buffer urban areas from weather and climate impacts. These include the capacity of green infrastructure to slow the flow of rainwater into watercourses and to enable infiltration where soil properties are favourable. We are concentrating on case study sites in Greater Manchester and Liverpool where there is a risk of flooding, and identifying green infrastructure resources that have a potential role to play in reducing flood risk to these locations.

Cities are confined by administrative boundaries that do not always reflect the socio-economic or biophysical processes that sustain them. What happens within their boundaries is often influenced by activities in hinterland landscapes and beyond. Hence, working at the landscape scale implies crossing administrative boundaries within and beyond urban areas. This research project is identifying that green infrastructure resources with the potential to reduce flood risk in urban centres within the Mersey basin are often located beyond district and in some cases city-region boundaries. This raises a series of challenges concerning the development and implementation of strategic responses to build urban resilience to weather and climate risks. Within this project we are exploring these governance challenges and looking at different options available for progressing landscape scale climate change buffers.

The project website can be accessed here.

For further details of this ongoing research project contact Jeremy Carter.

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