Is Agent-Based Simulation a Valid Tool for Studying the Impact of Nature-Based Solutions on Local Economy? A Case Study of Four European Cities
Implementing nature-based solutions (NBSs) in cities, such as urban forests, can have multiple effects on the quality of life of inhabitants, acting on the mitigation of climate change, and in some cases also enhancing citizens' social life and the transformation of customer patterns in commercial activities. Assessing this latter effect is the aim of this paper. An agent-based model (ABM) was used to assess change in commercial activities by small and midsize companies in retail due to the
... lopment of parks. The paper focuses on the potential capacity of NBS green spaces to boost retail companies' business volumes, thus increasing their revenues, and at the same time create a pleasant feeling of space usability for the population. The type of NBS is not specified but generalized into large green spaces. The simulation contains two types of agents: (1) residents and (2) shop owners. Factors that attract new retail shops to be established in an area are simplified, based on attractor points, which identify areas such as large green spaces within and around which shops can form. The simulations provided insights on the number of retail shops that can be sustained based on the purchasing behavior of citizens that walk in parks. Four European cities were explored: Szeged (Hungary), Alcalá de Henares (Spain), Çankaya Municipality (Turkey) and Milan (Italy). The model allowed analyzing the indirect economic benefit of NBSs (i.e., large green spaces in this case) on a neighborhood's economic structure. More precisely, the presence of green parks in the model boosted the visits of customers to local small shops located within and around them, such as cafés and kiosks, allowing for the emergence of 5–6 retail shops (on average, for about 800 walking citizens) in the case of Szeged and an average 12–14 retail shops for a simulated population of 2900 persons that walk in parks in the case of Milan. Overall, results from this modeling exercise can be considered representative for large urban green areas usually visited by a substantial number of citizens. However, their pertinence to support for local policies for NBS implementation and other decision-making related activities of socioeconomic nature is hampered by the low representativeness of source data used for the simulations.