Benefits of urban green space

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Award Year: 
Principal Investigator: 
Bianca Lopez, SESYNC
Emily Minor, Collaborating Mentor

Urban green spaces such as parks, gardens, and even vacant lots can provide many benefits for city dwellers, including clean air and water, reduced flooding, and habitat for plants, birds, and pollinators. They can also provide people with other, less tangible benefits, such as aesthetic beauty, recreation, and appreciation of nature, collectively known as cultural ecosystem services. Cultural ecosystem services are less well understood than other ecosystem services because they are difficult to measure, but they may be highly important for forming connections between people and nature and for overall human wellbeing. We expect that different kinds of urban green spaces provide different kinds of services because they are viewed differently by people and used for different activities. In this study, we use social media data (posts from Twitter and photographs from Flickr) to determine the amounts and kinds of cultural ecosystem services (and disservices, like low aesthetic value or lack of safety) provided by community gardens, residential gardens, vacant lots, forest preserves, and city parks. We also examine the effects of other factors, such as surrounding land cover, population density, and neighborhood income, on the amount and type of cultural ecosystem services that different green spaces provide. We expect that urban green spaces will provide different cultural ecosystem services in relation to their level of management and vegetation structure. Our findings will improve our understanding of interactions between people and nature in urban areas, as well as help inform the design and management of urban green space.

Associated SESYNC Researcher(s): 
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