The Benefits of Green Spaces in Communities

This is the third in a series of four articles exploring the benefits of urban green spaces.

The Ecological Importance of Urban Green Spaces

For all our history on earth, our natural and environmental resources have played a crucial role in our everyday life. 
Our supply of clean water and fresh air and access to nature’s bounty are equally important to our future, but our ecosystem is facing increasing pressure due to over urbanization.  In the next ten years two thirds of the world’s population will live in urban areas making it critical that we build with a focus on sustainability. With the expected growth of our cities, the ecological importance of urban green spaces suggests the need for the preservation, revitalization, and expansion of urban green spaces as critical to our health and well-being.

Urban heat islands, water and air pollution, vegetation removal, loss of flora and fauna diversity, and ground water overdraft all pose ecological threats to our urban populations. 
Urban green spaces have been shown to improve health and well-being through several ecosystem services including buffering noise pollution, capturing and sequestering carbon, improving drainage, preventing nitrogen runoff, reducing ozone and ultraviolet (UV) radiation, improving air quality through absorbing and shielding from particulates, and preventing heat stress by providing shade. And the greater the number and density of green spaces, the greater the benefits!

Urban green spaces are also increasingly important as steppingstones for wider biodiversity conservation goals. Urban green spaces can be linked as wildlife corridors to facilitate the movement of fauna. More urban green spaces sustain more wildlife and flora biodiversity thereby providing a more favorable habitat. Biodiversity can contribute to the positive experience of park users.  It has been noted that even small urban green spaces, such as parks, can be incredibly diverse, depending on their connectedness and their habitat quality. It has been suggested that the richness of the biodiversity, i.e. the wider varieties of animals and vegetation, directly affects the psycho-physiological mechanisms that enhance well-being. Therefore, green space area, habitat cover, and biodiversity are not interchangeable concepts. Urban planning for public health requires an understanding of how site facilities and biodiversity of green spaces are associated with the restorative benefit derived from those spaces.

Urban green spaces connect the urban and the nature while caring for the environment. Green spaces, large and small, provide an opportunity for the integration of green infrastructure and parks goals. 
Urban green spaces are essential for the quality of life, health, and well-being of citizens. Urban green spaces are critical for protecting wildlife, watersheds, meads, vegetation, providing air quality for a dense urban environment and recreational activities. Parks and green infrastructure can be co-designed for co-benefits. Parks can serve their primary goals to offer recreation and aesthetic amenities, while also containing spaces that mitigate storm water, provide biodiversity, attenuate noise, provide visual relief, relieve excessive heat, and improve air quality. Thus, the urban green space is an important component of an ecosystem in any community development.

1 Urban Green Spaces as a Component of an Ecosystem Functions, Services, Users, Community Involvement, Initiatives and Actions, José G. Vargas-Hernández Jose, Karina Pallagst, Patricia M.I. Hammer, February 19, 2018 International Journal of Environmental Sciences & Natural Resources
2 Not All Green Space Is Created Equal: Biodiversity Predicts Psychological Restorative Benefits From Urban Green Space, Emma Wood, Alice Harsant, Martin Dallimer, Anna Cronin de Chavez, Rosemary R. C. McEachan and Christopher Hassall, Front. Psychol., 27 November 2018
3 Biodiversity in the City: Fundamental Questions for Understanding the Ecology of Urban Green Spaces for Biodiversity Conservation, Christopher A. Lepczyk, Myla F. J. Aronson, Karl L. Evans, Mark A. Goddard, Susannah B. Lerman, J. Scott MacIvor, BioScience, Volume 67, Issue 9, September 2017

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