In the coming decades, urban green spaces will become the dominant way people experience nature, with two-thirds of the world’s population inhabiting cities by 2030. These spaces can have profound benefits for human health and are critical for maintaining biodiversity. Yet cities do not currently maximize their potential to achieve these goals. Instead, cities often reduce access to nature, fragment habitats, and produce air pollution and urban heat islands. 


At the same time, however, cities are changing rapidly: population increases, changes in mobility, shifting work patterns, and adapting for climate change will all dramatically alter the physical environment for urban populations. As this diverse set of trends catalyzes the transformation of cities, there is a critical opportunity to enhance the health of urban communities. 


Independent lines of research in the fields of urban ecology and public health are uncovering striking parallels that can help guide this transformation. Integrating emerging science from these disparate fields can guide the redesign of our cities to support nature and, in turn, to improve the Culture of Health. Despite the potential, this information has not been made accessible to urban residents and designers. 


Made possible by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, this project fills that research gap, connecting emerging research from the fields of ecology and human health. We are connecting the seven elements of the Urban Biodiversity Framework to human health outcomes, and describe the mechanistic links. In addition, case studies of placetypes in Silicon Valley will demonstrate how this nature-health framework can provide quantifiable ecosystem services. The goals are to encourage collaboration among ecologists, public health experts, and city planners and to provide the science-based guidance needed to design cities for both ecology and human health. 


Programs and Focus Areas: 
Resilient Landscapes Program
Urban Nature Lab
Location Information