Ecosystem Benefits Provision of Green Stormwater Infrastructure in Chinese Sponge Cities

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The Sponge City Development (SCD) concept was initiated in 2012 to address severe urban flooding and water quality challenges in China. Green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) such as rain gardens have been adopted as critical stormwater management tools. Existing GSI research has focused primarily on their environmental performance, overlooking the human dimensions. The co-benefits of GSI have been particularly underinvestigated. We used social surveys (n = 607) and expert interviews (n = 11) to explore public perception of SCD and GSI in four pilot sponge cities, examining flood experience, stormwater concerns, GSI familiarity, institutional trust, and GSI benefit perception. The survey found high exposure to flooding, medium GSI familiarity, and strong institutional trust. The public showed greater concern on stormwater impacts on their quality-of-life than the water environment, rating the less-intended aesthetic and health values as the best-perceived benefits. Experience, familiarity, concern, trust, age, and city significantly affected GSI benefit perception. In contrast, the experts spoke more positively about the environmental benefits while indicating the inadequacy of public participation. The case of GSI in SCD offers broad implications for environmental governance and expert-public relationships in an era of rapid social, technological, and environmental change. Refining policies and regulations to incorporate social goals, bringing the public into the SCD process, and building up the GSI industry’s capacity in planning, design, construction, and maintenance are critical to enhancing GSI benefits provision. Adopting the co-benefits approach will be essential to utilizing GSI as a place-making tool to create more sustainable and livable communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)558-575
Number of pages18
JournalEnvironmental Management
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology
  • Pollution


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