Environmental Justice and Outdoor Recreation Opportunities: A spatially explicit assessment in Oslo metropolitan area, Norway

How to cite this study

Suárez, M., Barton, D.N., Cimburova, Z., Rusch, G.M., Gómez-Baggethun, E. and Onaindia, M. 2020. Environmental justice and outdoor recreation opportunities: A spatially explicit assessment in Oslo metropolitan area, Norway. Environmental Science & Policy 108(2020): 133-143.


This study assesses outdoor recreation opportunities focusing on green space accessibility for different demographic groups in the Oslo metropolitan area in Norway. Overall, most people prefer large wooded green areas, high tree density, and water presence. Migrants and low-income households were found to have relatively less access to places for daily recreation.


This study is relevant to those interested in assessing outdoor recreational accessibility by different demographic groups. The methodology in this study is applicable to other cities and metropolitan areas in Europe to evaluate accessibility to outdoor recreational opportunities as it uses the Ecosystem Services Mapping Tool (ESTIMAP), which is a model that has spatial mapping across Europe. 

The factors influencing households’ accessibility to green spaces are complex and intertwined, including affordability, income, and preferences for urban amenities such as proximity to shops or efficient public transport. Additional methodological strategies such as interviews or participatory mapping are needed to determine these preferences.


This study is located in the metropolitan area of Oslo, Norway.

Trail Type

Waterways, parks, recreation areas, and green corridors account for 21% of the built environment in the Oslo metropolitan area, offering activities like walking, swimming, and cycling. Oslo’s metropolitan area covers an area of 5,732 km2 and has 1,305,126 inhabitants.


The purpose of this study was to assess the differences in preferences and inequalities depending on age, cultural background, and income in the distribution of green space in Oslo, Norway. This study was funded by the project ENABLE, which is funded through Biodiversa +, a European Biodiversity Partnership. The lead author was also partially supported by an ERASMUS grant, operated by the University of the Basque Country.


  • In Oslo, older people prefer natural areas near water, whereas younger people prefer more urban places with recreation facilities.
  • More than 60% of the Oslo metropolitan area (excluding surface water) has high levels of recreation potential, unlike most urban areas. Areas accessible for daily recreation comprise 18% of the Oslo metropolitan area and are mainly located at the urban fringe. Most of these areas are accessible (40%) or easily accessible (38%) areas with high potential for recreation.
  • The majority of the population has access to areas for outdoor recreation on a daily basis. Specifically, the entire population in Oslo and Akershus lives within a 30-minute walk and 93% live within a 10-minute walk from areas for daily recreation.
  • In census tracts with a higher percentage of migrants, the percentage of areas for daily recreation is lower. Census tracts with households with higher average incomes have a higher percentage of areas for daily recreation.
  • Overall, the population’s preferences match the characteristics of green areas near the place they live. This suggests that either people’s preferences adapt to the neighborhoods they live in or people self-select their home location based on their pre-existing preferences.


The Ecosystem Services Mapping Tool (ESTIMAP) is a collection of spatially explicit models that display the ecosystem services in Europe. It assesses potential for outdoor recreation (or an ecosystem’s ability to generate services), capacity, and demand for outdoor recreation. To determine outdoor recreation potential, areas were evaluated based on amenities and natural features like tree density, proximity to lakes, and size of continuous forest. This mapped low and high recreation areas. To assess capacity, the ecosystem’s ability to generate services and its  walking distance from residential areas was calculated using spatial mapping techniques. Potential demand was measured by the number of people living within daily commuting distance in the Oslo metropolitical areas and the natural features and amenities offered. Population was analyzed based on household income, nationality, and age to determine which social groups had more access than others. 

ESTIMAP was adapted to the Oslo metropolitan area using local datasets and local preferences for outdoor recreation. To assess outdoor recreation preferences, socio-economic characteristics were analyzed with recreational preferences via a 2016 web survey by the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research. 1,157 Oslo residents were randomly selected and proportional to the population by the city district. They mapped their favorite recreation paths, facilities, and characteristics. Finally, statistical analysis was used to assess the spatial distribution of and access to outdoor recreational opportunities in relation to preferences in different demographics.

Added to library on November 7, 2023