Characterizing Physical and Social Compositions of Cities to Inform Climate Adaptation: Case Studies in Germany

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-7635

Article | Open Access

Characterizing Physical and Social Compositions of Cities to Inform Climate Adaptation: Case Studies in Germany


  • Angela Wendnagel-Beck Institute of Spatial and Regional Planning, University of Stuttgart, Germany
  • Marvin Ravan Institute of Spatial and Regional Planning, University of Stuttgart, Germany
  • Nimra Iqbal Institute of Spatial and Regional Planning, University of Stuttgart, Germany
  • Jörn Birkmann Institute of Spatial and Regional Planning, University of Stuttgart, Germany
  • Giorgos Somarakis Remote Sensing Lab, Foundation for Research and Technology—Hellas Institute of Applied and Computational Mathematics, Greece
  • Denise Hertwig Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, UK
  • Nektarios Chrysoulakis Remote Sensing Lab, Foundation for Research and Technology—Hellas Institute of Applied and Computational Mathematics, Greece
  • Sue Grimmond Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, UK


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Abstract:  Cities are key to climate change mitigation and adaptation in an increasingly urbanized world. As climate, socio-economic, and physical compositions of cities are constantly changing, these need to be considered in their urban climate adaptation. To identify these changes, urban systems can be characterized by physical, functional, and social indicators. Multi-dimensional approaches are needed to capture changes of city form and function, including patterns of mobility, land use, land cover, economic activities, and human behaviour. In this article, we examine how urban structure types provide one way to differentiate cities in general and to what extent socio-economic criteria have been considered regarding the characterization of urban typologies. In addition, we analyse how urban structure types are used in local adaptation strategies and plans to derive recommendations and concrete targets for climate adaptation. To do this, we examine indicators, background data used, and cartographic information developed for and within such urban adaptation plans, focusing in particular on the German cities of Karlsruhe and Berlin. The comparative analysis provides new insights into how present adaptation plans consider physical and social structures, including issues of human vulnerability within cities. Based on the analysis we make recommendations on how to improve the consideration of both physical and socio-economic aspects of a city to support pathways for adaptation.

Keywords:  city typologies; climate adaptation; Germany; physical structures; socio-economic structures; urban indicators; vulnerability assessment

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/up.v6i4.4515


© Angela Wendnagel-Beck, Marvin Ravan, Nimra Iqbal, Jörn Birkmann, Giorgos Somarakis, Denise Hertwig, Nektarios Chrysoulakis, Sue Grimmond. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.