A green infrastructure spatial planning model for evaluating ecosystem service tradeoffs and synergies across three coastal megacities

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49 Scopus citations


A growing number of cities are investing in green infrastructure to foster urban resilience and sustainability. While these nature-based solutions are often promoted on the basis of their multifunctionality, in practice, most studies and plans focus on a single benefit, such as stormwater management. This represents a missed opportunity to strategically site green infrastructure to leverage social and ecological co-benefits. To address this gap, this paper builds on existing modeling approaches for green infrastructure planning to create a more generalizable tool for comparing spatial tradeoffs and synergistic 'hotspots' for multiple desired benefits. I apply the model to three diverse coastal megacities: New York City, Los Angeles (United States), and Manila (Philippines), enabling cross-city comparisons for the first time. Spatial multi-criteria evaluation is used to examine how strategic areas for green infrastructure development across the cities change depending on which benefit is prioritized. GIS layers corresponding to six planning priorities (managing stormwater, reducing social vulnerability, increasing access to green space, improving air quality, reducing the urban heat island effect, and increasing landscape connectivity) are mapped and spatial tradeoffs assessed. Criteria are also weighted to reflect local stakeholders' desired outcomes as determined through surveys and stakeholder meetings and combined to identify high priority areas for green infrastructure development. To extend the model's utility as a decision-support tool, an interactive web-based application is developed that allows any user to change the criteria weights and visualize the resulting hotspots in real time. The model empirically illustrates the complexities of planning green infrastructure in different urban contexts, while also demonstrating a flexible approach for more participatory, strategic, and multifunctional planning of green infrastructure in cities around the world.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number125011
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 16 2019


  • Ecosystem services
  • Green infrastructure
  • Megacities
  • Spatial planning
  • Urban resilience
  • Urban sustainability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • General Environmental Science
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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