Connectivity of green and blue infrastructures: living veins for biodiverse and healthy cities

Participate in our public participatory park mapping survey!

Bioveins is starting a new survey to learn about residents’ perceptions of green spaces in Antwerp, Poznan, Tartu and Zurich, in addition to Barcelona.

Recently I talked to Ana Luz, who collaborates with the Lisbon/ Almada Bioveins team, about this initiative. Ana is a post-doc who studies human-nature relations, and how that relationship can improve sustainability—how it translates into environmental stewardship in people’s daily lives. She previous studied human-nature relations in Bolivia, working with indigenous people, and in Mozambique working with rural communities, and now she is based in Lisbon researching the urban context. If this sounds less exciting (though Lisbon is a wonderful city), Ana assured me that in the urban setting there are many more challenges when adressing human-nature relationships, because cities are very complex and dynamic soci-ecological systems, and people’s livelihoods are complex and often with limited interactions with nature. She told me that she believes that while some of the principles of human-nature relations are the same across rural and urban contexts, rural systems can be considered simpler when conducting research. Studying the urban context is thus more complex but equally important.

Ana worked on a similar study before in Lisbon, along with Bioveins team member Pedro Pinho, using a Public Participatory Geographic Information System, in this case the Maptionnaire online platform https://maptionnaire.com). A public participatory geographic information system means a mapping tool to which people can contribute data, such as points where they go, or descriptors of places on the map. In their published study of residents’ perceptions of green spaces in Lisbon, Luz et al. (2019), the researchers found that residents of areas with fewer green areas were more likely to leave their ZIP code area to visit green areas elsewhere in the city, and that green areas’ size and vegetation heterogeneity, that is, how many layers, sizes and shapes of vegetation are present (see http://www.bioveins.eu/blog/structural-heterogeneity), were the two most attractive factors.
In this new study for Bioveins, people in the participating cities can indicate which parks or other green spaces they visit and like, and which they avoid. The main research question is, what are the main features of parks that are preferred or avoided? Are there common features preferred or avoided among cities? What are these features related to: available nature, park design, or experienced social relations? Ana also hopes to assess whether the parks’ provision of nature’s contributions to people (a.k.a. ecosystem services) is related to preferences for them. Ecosystem services might include cultural ecosystem services like beauty, spiritual value, or recreation, or they might include regulatory ecosystem services like microclimate regulation such as shade, humidity.

Participants will be asked to fill out a 10 minute survey in which they choose between different options for why they prefer or avoid certain green areas, such as public parks, allotment gardens, cemeteries, or viewpoints. This survey design helps to improve comparability across cities and cultures. Using the data provided by participants, Ana will be able to calculate the distance from respondents’ ZIP code to preferred and nonpreferred parks. She can then compare the amount of green space available in their own ZIP code area, accessibility of other parks, and public transport to other parks.

This data can be integrated with the biodiversity data from each city to compare how humans vs. other species use urban green spaces. Ana has no particular hypothesis about how fragmentation will affect perception or use of green spaces: after all, the urban matrix that fragments green spaces is prime human habitat that enhances our mobility, the opposite of what we expect for other species. The “fragmentation” of green spaces in cities from the human perspective is thus not the same kind of fragmentation that other species experience. Yet, fragmentation affects the provision of ecosystem services, which may affect peoples’ uses and perceptions regarding green spaces. For example, during the last heat wave it was painfully obvious whenever one had to walk any distance without tree cover, which can be expressed as a perception about the ecosystem service of shade provision. Lisbon is creating green corridors that are intended to connect biodiversity but can also provide soft mobility for people—soft mobility refers to walking or biking. The Lisbon team plans to have a masters student assess the effects of this soft mobility green connectivity on residents’ perceptions.

If you live in Antwerp, Poznan, Tartu and Zurich, in addition to Barcelona, and you would like to participate, go to the appropriate link:

Antwerp: https://app.maptionnaire.com/pt/5574/

Barcelona: https://app.maptionnaire.com/pt/5499/

Poznan: https://app.maptionnaire.com/pt/5560/

Tartu: https://app.maptionnaire.com/pt/5573/

Zurich: https://app.maptionnaire.com/en/5559/

Please also circulate so that we can get a big sample size and do a nice analysis!

Reference:

Luz, A.C., Buijs, M., Aleixo, C., Metelo, I., Grilo, F., Branquinho, C., Santos-Reis, M. and Pinho, P., 2019. Should I stay or should I go? Modelling the fluxes of urban residents to visit green spaces. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, 40, pp.195-203.

--Meredith Root-Bernstein, 31 July 2019

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