The urban environment today is certainly different from what it used to be. City expansion, increased populations in urban centers, and CO2 accumulation are some of the reasons for so-called micro-climates.
Greek cities are seeing these types of changes as well. A major problem for Greek cities is the low percentage of public green spaces. But just why are trees important to a city? During the transpiration process which occurs at night, plants release moisture into the atmosphere through their leaves. This process reduces nighttime temperatures. Consequently, plants are a key element in the limitation of the heat island effect.
Athens has to deal with an additional difficulty: lack of flood control projects. Very recently, in February 2013, Athens experienced some high precipitation, which resulted in the flooding of main central and suburban streets. Τhe size of the innundation was so extensive and highly unusual for Athens. The main reason for this widespread flooding, seems to be the inadequate infrastructure to provide protection from natural phenomena such as storms. This example helps us understand the implications of incomplete urban planning to a city’s sustainability.
Besides what is mentioned above, city climates are in jeopardy for another reason too: Greek forests suffer from extensive fires almost every summer – something that undoubtedly affects the micro-climate of nearby cities. For example, in the summer of 2012 thousands of mastiha trees were turned into ash in just a few hours on the island of Chios. More specifically, 12,000 hectares were destroyed. The mastiha tree is a unique tree that grows on Chios island and the mastiha product is exported worldwide. We can imagine the implications of these fires on the island’s natural environment and economy. Furthermore, the mild climate and temperature which these trees majorly contributed to was disturbed, in turn affecting nearby cities and villages.
How can we preserve the climate in urban areas and thus limit the unwanted implications of human intervention on the natural environment?
Credits: Photos and data linked to sources.