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3D green models to evaluate and visualize urban biodiversity enhancement

UrbanLIFEcircles project aims to improve the conditions of biodiversity in participating cities: Tartu, Riga and Aarhus. One of the goals is to prove a systematic approach leading the way to more biodiverse urban areas by creating “urban LIFE circles”. Green corridors connecting Natura 2000 sites, valuable grasslands and urban green areas will be designed to allow species to expand their habitats from reserves towards the city centre. FinEst Centre’s researchers from GreenTwins project are creating a specific 3D modelling nuance to provide with necessary perspective for urban planners in their decisions.

Engaging urban communities in conservation and systemic change 

The population sizes of mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles have seen an alarming average drop of 68% since 1970. With the loss of biodiversity, nature's ability to provide us with clean water and air, food and natural resources, will decline. 


The EU biodiversity strategy for 2030 aims to stop the loss of green urban ecosystems and calls on cities with at least 20 000 inhabitants to develop plans including measures to create bio diverse and accessible urban forests, parks and gardens, tree-lined streets, urban meadows, etc. The strategy also foresees the improvement of connectivity between green spaces. 


In Tartu, Riga and Aarhus, a baseline monitoring of biodiversity is carried out. Species richness and abundance of vascular plants, insects, invertebrates and birds in the project areas in Tartu will be watched in the spring and summer of 2023 and similar method will later be used in other cities. 

3D green modelling to quantify and visualize the results of biodiversity enhancement


Tartu. Photo: Liina-Mai Kaunissaare, Unsplash

For digital transition of biodiversity governance, FinEst Centre’s researchers will set up a 3D Green Twin for selected project sites in Tartu, including novel 3D models for the represented biodiversity. In addition they will develop analytical solutions that enable citizen engagement and improve virtual accessibility of nature values. 


Currently working on Tallinn-Helsinki green dynamic model creation in GreenTwins project, a senior research fellow of FinEst Centre

Dr. Eeva Henna Helena Fabritius said that the same information structure and the same algorithms will be used as part of urbanLIFEcircles project. Some specifics will be added, such as new digital species models and new analysis tools. 

Green information model developed in GreenTwins will be extended in the UrbanLIFECircles project. It helps urban planners to evaluate urban greenery plans from multiple aspects. 

For instance, algorithmic 3D models of plants help urban planners and stakeholders to estimate how urban vegetation affects views, visibility, green area aesthetics, and shading at different points of time.  


As another example, the green information model provides a basis for estimating ecosystem services provided by alternative urban plans. The information model extensions developed in the UrbanLIFECircles project focus especially on quantifying and visualizing the benefits and outcomes of biodiversity-enhancing urban plans.  


Considering one of the projects’ goals, accessibility, it refers to how easy it is for citizens from diverse groups to reach certain urban services, in this case biodiversity of the created green areas. UrbanLIFEcircles aims at ensuring information accessibility, physical accessibility (measured as e.g., travel time or distance to green areas) and virtual accessibility (e.g., possibility to experience and learn from specific urban nature values using digital tools) to urban biodiversity. We will likely contain at least the provision of added biodiversity information on the project’s pilot sites, when they are viewed in our 3D viewing application. 

Reviving a pond, creating nesting opportunities in cemeteries, and more 

There are many ongoing projects at the moment as part of urbanLIFEcircles, so Riia Ränisoo from Tartu City Department of Urban Design, shared the progress and few specific activities on what is planned to be done to enrich the cities’ biodiversity.

​In Riga, Latvia, restoration activities in Jaunciems Nature Reserve (Natura 2000 site) will take place. In addition, a biodiverse city demo area will be created on Lucavsala island. Riga will create a quarter type, similar to how cities are designed, demo area with various function zones which combine different forms of biodiversity support: wetlands, orchard, a forest garden and meadows, and nature education citizen recreation zones: community gardens and recreation zone. 


Aarhus, Denmark will improve conservation status and connectivity of the forest habitats in Moesgård Forest (Natura 2000), at Lake Brabrand and surroundings (also Natura 2000) work should be done to achieve the greatest possible natural robustness and coherence in the area to secure larger light-open habitat types. 


Tartu in Estonia plans to restore the freshwater ecosystem of Supilinna pond by deepening, cleaning the banks and creating the habitat niches for amphibians. Raadi and Pauluse cemeteries will be prepared to create nesting opportunities for a diverse bird community, bats and insects through adding nest boxes, creating natural cavities and creating less-disturbed areas; setting up local composting stations.  


Sadamaraudtee, an abandoned railway corridor where the last cargo train took a ride in 2018, will be developed into a recreation area. A 3D model of the abandoned railway corridor will be created together with FinEst Centre. 

UrbanLIFEcircles project is cofunded by LIFE21-NAT-EE.  

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