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Restoration of urban ecosystems: a crucial action for the resilience of cities to extreme weather events

September 16, 2021. The research "Analysis of the tree component and its contribution to ecosystem services in the city of Turrialba, Costa Rica" arises from the need to provide scientific evidence on the role of green infrastructure in the generation of ecosystem services, as well as the benefits for the people living in a given place.

In this particular case, the green infrastructure is represented by the trees that are still found in the urban area of the city of Turrialba.

The study conducted at CATIE (Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center) by researchers Laura Benegas Negri; Adolfo Rojas; Alberto Iraheta and Jeanette Cárdenas, shows the management of urban ecosystems as crucial elements to build resilience in cities and move towards their sustainability.

Among the main findings, it was determined that the value of the ecosystem services of carbon sequestration and storage, as well as the structural value of the trees in the selected sample, according to the 18 tree species identified, generate more than 60,000 USD that are derived from the ecosystem services mentioned above.

In addition, as part of the most relevant result according to the current context of the canton, it is shown that maintaining the riparian strips of the Turrialba River (strips of land next to the river) and its tributaries provides the greatest amount of ecosystem services from trees, which are still harbored in the city and where there is an important potential for including new plantations.

This last finding has been corroborated more strongly after the recent floods suffered by the canton of Turrialba on July 22, 2021, where it was observed that the margins that still had trees on the banks, resisted the overflows caused by the excess water, as well as the landslides or loss of buildings.

"This shows that a strategy that seeks to rebuild the city of Turrialba in a better and safer way must contemplate the restoration of this green infrastructure in an orderly and strategic manner, combining it with gray infrastructure where it is essential, and of course, taking care of the relocation of the people settled in the most vulnerable sites in case of other events of equal or greater magnitude that may occur in the future," said Laura Benegas, author of the research and coordinator of the Watershed, Water and Soil Security Unit (UCSHS, its Spanish acronym) at CATIE.

Climatic events such as floods, determine the urgent need to increase the tree component of the regions in combination with torrent control and spatial reorganization that makes possible the recovery of riverbanks. Benegas also recommends the maintenance of permeable zones and the creation of biological corridors along the river.

"It is essential that in order to organize and implement the measures described above, time and resources be invested in the short, medium and long term for the preparation and implementation of local emergency plans, and that these be integrated into the interdisciplinary approach to urban conservation and/or restoration work through an urban watershed management plan with emphasis on risk management and restoration of the urban ecosystem," said the researcher.

Due to the different extreme hydro meteorological events that occur more frequently due to the climate crisis, it is essential to have the political and social will to operate and build resilience in cities. To this end, the mapping of potential urban reserves for restoration should be highlighted as a guide for local planning; incorporating the socio-environmental dimension of this rehabilitation to contemplate the needs of the population, as well as encouraging the economic valuation that rescues the biological species present in the area as a symbol.

Currently, the UCSHS is leading a Technical Advisory Committee of the Municipality of Turrialba as part of an action plan due to the past floods. This committee is integrated by the Commission for the Planning and Management of the Reventazón River Basin (COMCURE, its Spanish acronym), the National Meteorological Institute (IMN, its Spanish acronym), the National Emergency Commission (CNE, its Spanish acronym), the Municipality of Turrialba, the University of Costa Rica, as well as the Economics, Environment and Sustainable Agribusiness Unit at CATIE and the office of global alliances under the supervision of the general sub-directorate.

If you wish to read the scientific article of the research, please click here.


More information:

Laura Benegas Negri, PhD
Watershed, Water Security and Soil Unit Coordinator
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Written by:

Dannia Gamboa Solís
Communications Assistant
Information Technology and Communication
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