As cities plan for climate change and ways to address threats to biodiversity, many around the world are developing and implementing plans to better integrate nature within urban settings. However, not all greenspaces are created equal when it comes to biodiversity support and human health provision. Our Ecology for Health Guide aims to aid local communities and design professionals in increasing biodiversity and community use of recreational and social spaces to promote improved health and well-being. 

The Ecology for Health guide is based on an extensive review of ecological literature on the potential of cities to support native plants and wildlife, as well as research exploring the health benefits of access to biodiverse greenspace. Anyone making decisions about land use and urban design in cities across the world can benefit from the recommendations in this guide (including community-based organizations, local non-profits, local leaders and policymakers, city planners, urban designers, landscape architects, engineers, gardeners/horticulturists/arborists, residents, and landowners). 

This guide focuses on three scales: urban planning, site design, and detailed design. Within each scale, it offers practical strategies to create urban green areas that resolve tradeoffs and maximize benefits between biodiversity conservation and human health support. Urban planning relates to the process and spatial distribution of greening in the urban landscape. Site design strategies focus on seven common types of urban greenspaces, while design details are applicable across specific site types.

Key design guidance strategies from Ecology for Health are incorporated into our Making Nature’s City Toolkit website. This online platform for city-building professionals offers examples and data capturing SFEI’s Urban Biodiversity Framework, and Ecology for Health’s design guidance for urban planning, site design, and detailed design scales.

Support for this project was provided by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

2019 to 2023
Joe Burg
Bronwen Stanford
Brandon Herman
Stephanie Panlasigui
Programs and Focus Areas: 
Resilient Landscapes Program
Urban Nature Lab
Location Information