Urban nature

Frognerparken. Photo: Zofie Cimburova / NINA.

Urban Nature

The Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA) conducts interdisciplinary research on urban nature. Our team does research and consulting on mapping and valuing urban ecosystem services, urban ecosystem accounts, environmental justice and assessment of related urban planning and policy.

Taking care of nature in cities is just as important for the people living in them as it is for biodiversity. More than half of the world's population now lives in cities and by 2050 this percentage will have risen to two thirds. At the same time, cities – and the people who live in them – face many problems caused by urbanisation and climate change – such as increased air pollution, heatwaves, extreme precipitation and health problems resulting from amongst others lack of access to green space. 

Research shows that green space, trees and other natural areas in and around cities are extremely important for dealing with these challenges. Nature is important for our health and well-being and provides many important ecosystem services such as purifying the air, reducing noise, mitigating flooding, reducing health risks caused by heat waves and serving as a habitat for pollinating insects.

During Oslo’s heatwave in the summer of 2018 urban areas with trees were up to 10 degrees cooler than areas covered by tarmac!

For residents who do not have the opportunity to travel to experience nature, having nature in the neighbourhood provides "green refuges" which proved to be important during the Covid pandemic.


Mapping applications

GRASS GIS:r.viewshed.exposure - Visual exposure to defined exposure source

Spatial targeting of green roofs in Oslo (beta version)

Stormwater fees for Oslo (beta version) 

Urban geonode (kartportal)

Urban Nature Atlas for Oslo (beta version)

Articles and reports


Kopperoinen, L., Barton, D.N., Costadone, L., Hurskainen, P., kurse, M. & Lai, T.-Y. (2022) Urban experimental ecosystem accounting pilot in the Nordic cities. Nordic Council of Ministers, TemaNord 2022:557.

Barton, D.N. et al. (2015) Economic valuation of ecosystem services for policy. A pilot study on green infrastructure in Oslo. NINA Report 1114 

Barton, D.N. et al. (2015) Naturen i Oslo er verdt milliarder. Verdsetting av urbane økosystemtjenester fra grønnstruktur. NINA Rapport 1113

Barton, D.N., Vågnes Traaholt, N., Blumentrath, S. (2015) Materials and methods appendix for valuation of ecosystem services of green infrastructure in Oslo. NINA Rapport 1115

Chen, W. et al. (2019) Verdier i Oslofjorden: Økonomiske verdier tilknyttet økosystemtjenester fra fjorden og strandsonen». NIVA-rapport 7420-2019. (oppdrag fra Miljødirektoratet med bidrag fra URBAN EEA)

Cimburova, Z., Barton, D.N. (2021) Testing GIS data-driven mapping and valuation of recreation areas in Oslo. Spatial modelling for urban ecosystem accounting. NINA rapport 1931 

Ellefsen, H. (Ed.)., Barton, D.N. (2019). MOT EN BLÅGRØNN EIENDOMSUTVIKLING? «Stresstesting» av Blågrønn Faktor på utvalgte case studier i Bærum Kommune. Oslo: Arkitektur og designhøgskolen i Oslo

Figari, H., Krange, O. & Nordbakke, S. (2019) Bruk og tilrettelegging av urban natur. En kunnskapssyntese. NINA Rapport 1684. 

Hanssen, F. et al. (2019) Mapping urban tree canopy cover using airborne laser scanning – applications to urban ecosystem accounting for Oslo.NINA Report 1677 

Horvath, P. et al. (2017). Blue-Green Factor (BGF) mapping in QGIS. User Guide and Documentation.NINA Report 1445 

Krange, O., Figari, H., Gundersen, V., Bendiksen, E., Venter, Z. (2016). Bruk og vern i Østmarka. NINA Rapport 2016.

Lauwers, L. et al. (2017). Accounting for urban trees. Updating the VAT03 compensation value model. NINA Report 1453 

Nollet, A. et al. (2021) Accounting for amenities and regulating ecosystem services of urban trees. Testing a combined field protocol for VAT19 and i-Tree Eco valuation methods. NINA rapport 1948

Reinvang, R, Barton, D. & Often, A. (2014) Verdien av urbane økosystemtjenester: Fire eksempler fra Oslo. Vista Analyse Rapport 2014/46.

Stange, E.E., Venter, Z.S., Dillinger, B. & Sydenham, M.A.K. (2019) Kartlegging av grøntstrukturer i Nye Stavanger kommune. NINA Rapport 1706.

Scientific articles:

Barton, D.N. (2023) Value ‘generalisation’ in ecosystem accounting - using Bayesian networks to infer the asset value of regulating services for urban trees in Oslo. One Ecosystem e:85021

Barton, D.N. et al. (2021) Brukerfinansiert klimaberedskap? En beregningsmodell for overvannsgebyr i Oslo. Vann 4/2021

Barton, D.N. et al. (2017) Monetary valuation methods in urban ecosystem accounting - examples of their relevance for municipal policy and planning in the Oslo metropolitan area. Conference: London Group meeting, “Methodology of SEEA CF and the Ecosystem Accounts”At: 17- 20 October 2017, Costa Rica.

Berglihn, E., Gómez-Baggethun, E. (2021) Ecosystem services from urban forests: the case of Oslomarka, Norway.Ecosystem Services 51 (2021) 101358.

Cimburova, Z., Barton, D.N. (2020) The potential of geospatial analysis and Bayesian networks to enable i-Tree Eco assessment of existing tree inventories. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening. Volume 55, November 2020, 126801

Cimburova, Z., Berghauser-Pont, M. (2021) Location matters. A systematic review of spatial contextual factors mediating ecosystem services of urban trees. Ecosystem Services. Volume 50, August 2021, 101296

Cimburova, Z., Blumentrath, S. (2022). Viewshed-based modelling of visual exposure to urban greenery – An efficient GIS tool for practical planning applications. Landscape and Urban Planning, 222, 104395.

Garnåsjordet, P.A. et al. (2021) Urban green. Integrating ecosystem extent and condition data in urban ecosystem accounts. Examples from the Oslo region. Statistical journal of the IAOS 37 (2021) 1247-1274.

Gómez-Baggethun, E. and Barton, D.N. (2013) Classifying and valuing ecosystem services for urbanplanning. Ecological Economics.86:235-245.

Hanssen, F. et al. (2021) Utilizing LiDAR data to map tree canopy for urban ecosystem extent and condition accounts in Oslo. Ecological indicators. Volume 130, November 2021, 108007.

Kruse, M. et al. (2021) Making urban ecosystem mapping accessible to the public: the urban nature atlas of Oslo (Norway). Reptes i oportunitats de la infraestructura verda metropolitana. Barcelona: Institut d'Estudis Regionals i Metropolitans de Barcelona 2021 ISBN 978-84-92940-49-3. s. 185-189.

Laszkiewicz, E. et al. (2022) Valuing access to urban greenspace using non-linear distance decay in hedonic property pricing.Ecosystem Services 53 (2022).

Stange, E. et al. (2022) Comparing the implicit valuation of ecosystem services from nature based solutions in performance-based green area indicators across three European cities. Landscape and Urban Planning. Volume 2019, March 2022.

Suárez, M. et al. (2020) Environmental justice and outdoor recreation opportunities: A spatially explicit assessment in Oslo Metropolitan area, Norway. Environmental Science and Policy 2020 ;Volum 108. s. 133-143

Venter, Z., Figari, H. Krange, O. & Gundersen, V. (2022) Environmental justice in a very green city: Spatial inequality in exposure to urban nature, air pollution and heat in Oslo, Norway. Sci Total Environ. 2022 Nov 13; 858(Pt 3): 160193. 

Venter, Z. et al. (2020) Hyperlocal mapping of urban air temperature using remote sensing and crowdsourced weather data. Remote Sensing of Environment Volume 242, 1 June 2020, 111791

Venter, Z. et al. (2020)Linking green infrastructure to urban heat and human health risk mitigation in Oslo, Norway.Science of The Total Environment Volume 709 20 March 2020, 136193

Venter, Z. et al. (2020) Urban nature in a time of crisis: recreational use of green space increases during the COVID-19 outbreak in Oslo, Norway. Environmental Research Letters

Venter, Z. et al. (2021) Back to nature: Norwegians sustain increased recreational use of urban green space months after the COVID-19 outbreak. Landscape and Urban Planning. Volume 214, October 2021, 104175.

Venter, Z. et al. (2021) Interactive spatial planning of urban green infrastructure - Retrofitting green roofs where ecosystem services are most needed in Oslo. Ecosystem Services, Volume 50, 101314.

Master and PhD Thesis'

Brastein Halvorsen, J. (2019) Characterisation and typification of urban ecosystem types. A test of the NiN system. Master Thesis, UiO Naturhistorisk Museum

Cimburova, Z. (2022). Capturing the context: Developing GIS methods for modelling the ecosystem services of urban trees. Doctoral thesis, NTNU

Haavardsholm, O. (2015) Valuing urban ecosystem services. A contingent valuation study on street trees in Oslo

Fact sheets, narrative maps and themed booklets

Betalingsvillighet for bedre bymiljø (fact sheet)

Oslos grønneste gater (fact sheet)

Nowell, M., Kruse, M. (2021) De hemmelige godene i Oslos byparker (narrative map)

Skår, M., Rybråten, S., Øian, H. (2018) Bynatur i det flerkulturelle Oslo (fact sheet)

Barton, D.N. (2017) Betalingsvillighet for bedre bymiljø. Bytrær (fact sheet)

Barton, D.N. (2017) Bytrær i Oslo. 28 milliarder kroner naturkapital? (fact sheet)

Barton, D.N. (2017) Skjønnhetskonkurranse. Oslos Grønneste Gater (fact sheet)

Barton, D.N. (2017) Økosystemregnskap for byområder i Oslo Regionen (fact sheet)

Barton D.N., Reinvang, R. Naturen i norske byer er verdt milliarder (themed booklet)

Nytt om økosystemregnskap for byer (fact sheet)

Video presentations

Ecosystem services - nature's own services

Ecosystem services is a collective term for all goods and services derived from ecosystems from which people benefit. Ecosystem services are grouped into regulatory services (e.g. temperature regulation and flood mitigation), cultural services (e.g. aesthetics and opportunities for outdoor activities), provisioning services (e.g. food and timber) and supporting services (e.g. species habitats).

Although technological developments have resulted in urban societies that are seemingly divorced from nature and the ecosystems in and around our cities, those of us living in cities have a great need for – and benefit from – ecosystem services. Many of these needs are met by "importing" ecosystem services from the landscape around our cities and purchasing goods from other countries. At the same time we also benefit from many ecosystem services from our cities – urban ecosystem services. By preserving and restoring ecosystem services in urban areas, we can reduce the ecological footprint of cities, while simultaneously improving residents’ health and quality of life. This provides us with more robust cities that are better equipped to withstand global changes such as more extreme weather.

Ecosystem services and town planning

Ecosystem services can be a useful concept in town planning for many different reasons.

  • By naming urban ecosystem services we can increase the awareness of residents about the importance of nature in their everyday lives. NINA is participating in international work which aims to develop concepts and methods that are designed to highlight the biodiversity of Norwegian nature, both in the countryside and in the cities. See for example the IPBES Values Assessment.
  • Mapping and quantifying urban ecosystem services can help us to draw up plans for urban nature where it is needed most. The physical quantification of ecosystem services encourages town planners to consider both green and grey infrastructure when managing land in zoning plans. Gray infrastructure is often built to fulfil one specific function, e.g. digging a ditch designed to take the runoff from covered surfaces. However, this function can also be performed by streams or permeable surfaces with vegetation which also provide many other services (e.g. contributing to our well-being and serving as a habitat for species). NINA has developed maps showing some of Oslo’s ecosystem services and has collated them in its Urban Nature Atlas. For example, NINA has used maps of ecosystem services in order to create tools for locating green roofs and to provide input for the Action Plan for Green Roofs, as well as planting new trees in the city in support of the Oslo Trees project. Mapping and physical modelling also provide the basis for ecosystem accounting (more about that below).
  • Placing value (financial, social, health) on urban ecosystem services can help to put them on the political agenda. Valuing urban ecosystem services can contribute to impact assessment of land-use plans by quantifying the costs of losing green areas in and around built zones, weighed against the financial benefits of densification or the expansion of built zones. Valuation can support design of economic instruments, such as a stormwater tax in order to fund urban nature as part of climate adaptation. Valuation can also estimate economic compensation for any damage caused to urban nature, taking into account regulating ecosystem services, e.g. from city trees.

Urban nature in accounting

Although having nature inside a city’s city limits is also important for a well-functioning city, it is usually not included in the accounts of municipal agencies. Some municipalities are now producing green accounts which include calculations of changes in vegetation cover in both public parks and on private commercial and residential plots. NINA is continuing to develop physical green accounts by calculating what these changes mean for the delivery of ecosystem services to the city's residents and how the economic value of this changes over time. Green accounting also aims to highlight the additional costs incurred by municipal services over time due to the loss of urban nature, or the benefits of green social contingency measures – investment in nature-based solutions for climate adaptation and the management of future nature risks. NINA has, among other things, assisted the UN and Statistics Norway by providing guidance on urban ecosystem accounting.