by Enrique Saenz
A new tool allows Hoosier communities to plan for climate change impacts by showing where crucial green infrastructure exists and where it is needed.
Using data collected from a range of sources throughout Indiana, the Indiana Green City Mapper shows the location of six types of green infrastructure, important natural defenses for combating climate change impacts like flooding and rising temperatures, and other climate change-related data.
The tool was created by Indiana University Environmental Resilience Institute’s Urban Green Infrastructure Working Group to create a central hub that pulls together useful data for city planners and the public, much like other programs in cities like Los Angeles and Boston.
“Around the world, cities and communities in general are strategically incorporating green spaces into their environments because the benefits are so profound and measurable,” said Heather Reynolds, associate professor of biology at IU and project co-lead. “Cities have all kinds of inventories, but they aren’t always digitized and often are separated in different departments. So, we wanted an accessible web-based platform that would be a hub that would bring it all together so that people could use it as a planning tool.”
The map charts urban forests, green roofs, parks, greenways and trails, food gardens and green stormwater infrastructure, and all green infrastructure that is pleasant to the eye and provides important biophysical benefits like stormwater management, carbon sequestration and the absorption of toxic pollutants.
Those benefits are increasing in importance as the effects of climate change continue to be felt across the state.
Over a century, climate change has increased Indiana’s average annual precipitation amount and average annual temperature.
The state experiences 5.6 more inches of precipitation than it did in 1895 and is now 1.2 degrees hotter.
Last year, the May averages for some Indiana cities tracked by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration were significantly above the annual average since 1981.
South Bend’s temperature average for May was 1.7 degrees warmer than usual, and Indianapolis and Fort Wayne were 1.5 degrees warmer.
Precipitation averages for those cities were also much higher than average. Data for Evansville points to last year’s precipitation total for May being 6.07 inches higher than average and Indianapolis experiencing 5.37 more inches of precipitation than average.
Reynolds said green infrastructure could help Indiana communities mitigate the effects of two of the biggest climate change impacts, flooding and extreme heat.
“As cities realize the importance of green infrastructure for enhancing climate resilience, they realize that, just like with gray infrastructure, our built environment which we inventory, we need to do the same thing with our green infrastructure so that we can make the most strategic decisions and planning,” Reynolds said.
The mapper currently has green infrastructure data for Bloomington and Indianapolis and urban forest data for 27 cities and towns. Reynolds said the mapper will continue to expand to include more data from even more communities.