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Maintaining experiences of nature as a city grows

Jessica R. Sushinsky, Americas Program, Wildlife Conservation Society, Fort Collins, Colorado, United States; School of Biological Sciences, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
Jonathan R. Rhodes, School of Biological Sciences, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia; School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
Danielle F. Shanahan, School of Biological Sciences, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia; Zealandia Sanctuary, Wellington, New Zealand
Hugh P. Possingham, School of Biological Sciences, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia; The Nature Conservancy, South Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
Richard A. Fuller, School of Biological Sciences, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-09454-220322

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Abstract

Experiences of nature contribute to human health and well-being, yet as the world’s population continues to concentrate in towns and cities there is mounting concern that these experiences are diminishing. Despite this, little is known about how we can maintain experiences of nature as cities grow. Here, we quantify how people’s opportunities to experience nature might change with future urban growth in the city of Brisbane, Australia. We simulated the addition of 84,642 houses under compact and sprawling growth scenarios and modeled changes in people’s opportunities to experience nature by estimating changes in backyard size, public green space provision, and bird species richness close to households. We discovered that the form of urban growth could strongly influence people’s opportunities to experience nature in a way that is highly nonrandom across the socioeconomic gradient. Under a sprawling pattern of development, with low residential densities and few interstitial green spaces, our models suggest severe declines in access to public green space and bird species richness around people’s homes. These declines are predicted to be concentrated in socioeconomically disadvantaged areas of the city. Compact development leads to greater reductions in backyard size, but smaller declines in access to public green space and bird species richness. Our results point to a difficult trade-off; residential infill will maintain larger green spaces and higher overall bird diversity but reduce backyard sizes, impacting people’s opportunities to experience nature in a different way. Careful planning is needed to balance the availability of public and private urban green spaces to ensure that the opportunities for people to experience nature are maintained as urbanization continues.

Key words

backyards; biodiversity conservation; Brisbane, Australia; green space; human well-being; socioeconomic status; urban biodiversity; urban ecology; urban growth

Copyright © 2017 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

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