State and local goverments
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

Surveying the public utilisation of blue-green infrastructure

“We used Mergin Maps software – which I think is very, very good – for interviews, to map blue and green spaces that people prefer to visit.” Marine Elbakidze PhD.

Marine Elbakidze PhD is a Georgian national, who has spent long periods in both Ukraine and Sweden. At present, she is Senior Researcher at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), School for Forest Management in Skinnskatteberg. In a collaborative effort with Prof. Taras Yamelynets PhD, Ukrainian lecturer and GIS expert at Ivan Franko National University of Lviv in the Department of  Soil Science and Geography of Soils, and researchers from SLU – Lucas Dawson, Christina Schaffer and Kalle Johansson – significant work is being carried out on the Swedish research project, supported by FORMAS (Swedish Research Council for Environment, Agricultural Sciences & Spatial Planning): “Blue-Green Infrastructure (BGI) for social cohesion: urban and peri-urban public places and spaces in the eyes of new-Swedes”

Blue-Green Infrastructure – Urban and Land Use Planning

Blue-Green Infrastructure (BGI) is a network of public places and spaces in the urban and peri-urban environment that are important for social and environmental sustainability.

Blue Infrastructure refers to rivers, canals, ponds, wetlands, floodplains, water treatment facilities and lakes, while Green Infrastructure refers to trees, lawns, hedgerows, parks, fields and forests.  

Blue-Green Infrastructure (BGI) as a policy concept of the EU is important for biodiversity and human wellbeing. BGI is an increasingly utilised concept for the spatial planning of multifunctional blue-green spaces in urban and rural areas and is recognised as a potentially useful instrument for social cohesion.

Green Space: Forest in Sweden (Photo: Marine Elbakidze)

Mergin Maps Assist in BGI Research

Marine and Taras explain how BGI research is being carried out, with the invaluable aid of Mergin Maps. Their present project involves only Sweden, but Georgia, Ukraine, Armenia and Korea are also interested in similar research. The main objective is to map in a field blue-green places that urban residents prefer to use for different activities (e.g. jogging, cycling, walking, hanging with friends, etc.). To do this, an effective GIS application is essential to input data from field research.

First, an online survey was conducted to determine what specific type of blue-green spaces are used by people, how they use these spaces, for what purpose and at what frequency. A total of 2 800 responses were received across Sweden.

Afterwards, 300 face-to-face interviews were conducted to question respondents about what type of blue-green spaces they prefer and their reasons for this.  They were asked what basically attracts them to these spaces and what facilities they use there. During these interviews, those areas which they named, were mapped using Mergin Maps Input App.

Map in Mergin Maps Input (Map:Taras Yamelynets)
Taras prepared maps for all the case studies in QGIS. “To do this, I developed the BGI maps for all 8 study areas in Sweden and then my colleagues had to use them as basic maps for data input in the field. For such purposes, we decided to use Mergin Maps Input App as the most sufficient, easy-to-use and user-friendly program. QGIS was used to work with maps,” explains Taras.

Map in QGIS (Map: Taras Yamelynets)

Towards the Publication of Research Articles

The next steps will be analysis of the collected data. The qualitative data from interviews will be connected with the spatial data. Data analysis should be completed by the end of 2022. Scientific papers will be published in peer-reviewed journals during the following year.

Green Spaces in the City of Örebro (Photo: Marine Elbakidze) 

BGI for Social Cohesion in Sweden    

The project will generate evidence-based knowledge to understand how urban BGI could improve social cohesion in a society. At this stage, the aim is to identify and analyse multiple factors that influence people's interactions with urban greenspace across a wide range of settlement types in Sweden. Research will show what specific urban spaces could be used to improve social interactions among different groups in a society, particularly between native Swedes and immigrants, or new-Swedes.      

Taras explains:  “Among different tasks, we have several spatially oriented activities, such as mapping hubs of BGI that deliver benefits important for the wellbeing of new-Swedes and identifying and mapping differences in the usage of BGI between different groups of new-Swedes.”

City of Växjö (Photo: Marine Elbakidze)

BGI Benefits to Society

According to the European Commission, currently 10 European cities are launching innovative BGI pilots through the BEGIN cross-border project. “Initiatives e.g. building green corridors and sustainable urban drainage systems are helping cities to respond to extreme weather, while boosting community cohesion and improving the environment.” (source)

Innovative BGI research will gradually be implemented in numerous countries worldwide, enabling better social cohesion and peaceful interaction between various population groups, while protecting the environment and our valuable blue-green spaces.

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