Article

Urban residents value multi-functional urban greenspaces

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Abstract

Urban greenspaces are multifunctional spaces, providing services to people and biodiversity. With space in urban areas being limited creation and maintenance of urban greenspaces relies on understanding the preferences of urban residents for their characteristics. Such preferences are expected to vary with current availability, and the availability of alternatives to greenspaces such as gardens or gyms. We carried out a nationwide discrete choice experiment with Scottish urban residents to estimate values associated with greenspace attributes of: recreational features; plants and natural features; trees; accessibility; time to walk from home and size, to test the hypotheses that: (i) people are willing to pay to maintain greenspace, (ii) people have willingness to pay for greenspaces with multiple functions, including features for direct use (e.g. play equipment) and biodiversity (e.g. wildflowers), (iii) willingness to pay for individual greenspace will vary according to socioeconomic characteristics and (iv) vary with the amount of greenspace or substitute facilities available. We find a positive willingness to pay to maintain greenspace in general, and higher willingness to pay for larger greenspaces closer to home, which are multifunctional and contain both direct use features (e.g. children’s play park) and biodiversity features. Although we find significant heterogeneity in willingness to pay for maintaining greenspace, this is not well explained by either socioeconomic characteristics or the availability of substitute facilities. Our results have relevance for urban natural capital accounting, and demonstrate to urban planners the importance of the design and maintenance of multi-functional greenspaces for urban populations and would benefit from future research that further explores heterogeneity, including perceptions of greenspace access and substitutes, and greenspace quality.

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This paper reviews the progress made over the past few years in evaluating and controlling for spatial heterogeneity in stated preference valuation, focussing on applications to environmental valuation. Spatial heterogeneity can strongly impact value estimates, so failure to account for it can compromise their validity and reliability. Incorporating spatial factors into valuation studies not only helps to control for some potential biases, but also produces more precise evaluation of amenities that have mixed use and non-use values. For these reasons and considering the ever-growing need for non-market valuation studies, spatial heterogeneity deserves more attention in the stated preference valuation literature. In this review we discuss the current state-of-knowledge and identify some of the main issues that have been raised in the literature in relation to spatial heterogeneity in stated preference valuation, including distance-decay, substitution, embedding effects and scale factors. We present several techniques that have been used so far, mostly originating from spatial econometrics and spatial statistics, to control for spatial heterogeneity. Some of the ongoing challenges that require further attention are also highlighted. We conclude by suggesting potential directions for future research in light of recent progress made in related disciplines and the evolution of modern technologies.
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Contact with natural environments may be beneficial for various health and social outcomes but is often lower among groups who could benefit the most. Using data from >60,000 adults in England, we explored the spatial (e.g. amount of local greenspace), individual (e.g. socio-economic status) and temporal (e.g. seasonality) predictors of infrequent contact and the reasons given for it. Replicating earlier, smaller studies, infrequent users were more likely to be; female, older, in poor health, of lower socioeconomic status, of ethnic minority status, live in relatively deprived areas with less neighbourhood greenspace and be further from the coast. Extending previous findings, we also identified regional, seasonal and annual effects. Although response on issues of time availability were important, being ‘not interested’ and ‘no particular reason’ were also common. Identifying the predictors of these justifications (e.g. area deprivation was predictive of ‘not interested’, but individual socioeconomic status was predictive of ‘no particular reason’) sheds light on which demographic groups to engage in specific interventions designed to inspire greater interest in, and contact with, the natural world to offer more inclusive opportunities for positive experiences in nature.
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The role of urban parks in delivering cultural ecosystem services related to outdoor recreation is widely acknowledged. Yet, the question remains as to whether the recreational opportunities of parks meet the demands of increasingly multicultural societies and whether recreational patterns vary at spatial scales. In a pan-European survey, we assessed how people use urban parks (in five cities, N=3814) and how recreational patterns relate to respondents’ sociocultural and geographical contexts (using 19 explanatory variables). Our results show that across Europe (i) respondents share a general pattern in their recreational activities with a prevalence for the physical uses of parks, especially taking a walk; (ii) the geographic context matters, demonstrating a high variety of uses across the cities; and that (iii) the sociocultural context is also important; e.g., the occupation and biodiversity valuations of respondents are significantly associated with the uses performed. The sociocultural context matters particularly for physical park uses and is associated to a lesser extent with nature-related uses. Given that our results attest to a high variety of park uses between sociocultural groups and the geographical context, we conclude that it is important to consider the specific backgrounds of people to enhance recreational ecosystem services in greenspace development.
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This paper discusses the long-term management or ‘place-keeping’ of urban green space by citizens and highlights enabling and constraining factors that play a crucial role in this continuity. While authorities have historically been in charge of managing public green spaces, there is an increased involvement of citizens in green space management. It is therefore relevant to study how citizens can contribute towards place-keeping and realize a continuity in managing and conserving the qualities of urban green spaces.
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Spatial welfare heterogeneity is frequently modeled within stated preference analysis as a function of discrete or continuous distance between households and affected resources. A common example is distance-decay analysis. Although distance-based models such as these are easily estimated, the ubiquity of this paradigm can lead to analyses that overlook other forms of analysis with equal or greater relevance. This paper develops an alternative approach to spatial heterogeneity in stated preference willingness to pay (WTP) based on the quantity or area of an affected resource surrounding each respondent at an optimized distance band or radius, with distance bands optimized using a grid-search algorithm that maximizes model likelihood. Methods and results are illustrated using a choice experiment on riparian land restoration in Maine, USA. The resulting quantity-within-distance model identifies systematic spatial patterns that are undetectable using distance-based analysis and directly relevant for welfare analysis.
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Greening cities, namely installing new parks, rooftop gardens or planting trees along the streets, undoubtedly contributes to an increase in wellbeing and enhances the attractiveness of open spaces in cities. At the same time, we observe an increasing use of greening strategies as ingredients of urban renewal, upgrading and urban revitalization as primarily market-driven endeavours targeting middle class and higher income groups sometimes at the expense of less privileged residents. This paper reflects on the current debate of the social effects of greening using selected examples. We discuss what trade-offs between social and ecological developments in cities mean for the future debate on greening cities and a socially balanced and inclusive way of developing our cities for various groups of urban dwellers. We conclude that current and future functions and features of greening cities have to be discussed more critically including a greater awareness of social impacts.
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Urban parks offer city residents a broad range of opportunities for recreation. This paper explores whether preferences for urban parks are context-dependent, i.e., whether they differ between recreational occasions on weekdays and weekends. Knowledge about such differences in behaviour and preferences could help decision makers in cities to optimise their portfolio of urban parks. Employing a discrete choice experiment for the case of Berlin, Germany, the analysis finds that preferences significantly differ between weekday and weekend recreation for some park characteristics. For weekdays, respondents prefer urban parks in closer proximity to their homes while the size of the parks is not so important. For the weekend, larger parks with picnic facilities are preferred while distance matters less. Most important are, however, cleanliness and maintenance, regardless of whether a park is visited on weekdays or the weekend. The results underline the importance of considering different temporal contexts when preferences for outdoor recreation are concerned.
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Neighbourhood green space serves an important function for the urban population, and provides valuable ecosystem services for human well-being. In this article, we investigate the effects of naturalness, gender, and age on the activities, aesthetics, and self-reported well-being associated with urban green space. Our findings are based on a postal survey of residents living in close proximity to six different green spaces in the city of Gothenburg, Sweden. It is shown that higher perceived naturalness generated more activities and higher aesthetic values and self-reported well-being for residents living close to urban green spaces. The results also indicated that, regardless of the type of naturalness, women were more active in urban green spaces than were men. Women also saw greater aesthetic value in green spaces than men did, and had higher self-reported well-being associated with the urban green spaces. Finally, older residents were shown to participate in a greater number of nature-related activities than younger residents. Older residents also saw greater aesthetic values and had higher self-reported well-being associated with urban green spaces than younger people did. Seemingly, this poses a considerable planning challenge if areas of perceived naturalness are to be retained in cities, since the present trend is for reduced green spaces in cities and a ‘parkification’ of surviving natural areas. Further, because of the importance of perceived natural areas to the elderly, and in particularly women, distances to urban green areas should not be too great.
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This study investigated whether preferences and biodiversity are compatible in an urban green space setting and whether people actually recognise and appreciate ecologically rich environments when exposed to these as part of a recreational visit. Data were collected through an on-site visitor-employed photography (VEP) study employing both lay people and ecology experts. Photos were taken by the participants during a walk along a 1.6 km trail through a recreational park with clear habitat variation. Half of the lay people and half of the experts each took five photos of features reflecting high preference and five reflecting low preference. The remaining half each took five photos of features they perceived to represent high species richness and five representing low species richness. Photos and written comments were then compared against an assessment of biodiversity values of the different habitats experienced along the trail. The results indicated that people can correctly perceive differences in biodiversity between urban green space habitat types. High biodiversity did not, however, relate positively to preference as half-open park areas were preferred to areas of more complex vegetation. Nevertheless, negative preferences for these richer habitat types were mostly related to the presence or execution of human interventions. The VEP method revealed on-site perception and preference to be highly context-specific, mainly triggered by specific features rather than the overall scenery and character of the setting. Differences in attitude between experts and lay people suggested that ecological knowledge could have a positive influence on preference for certain aspects of biodiversity.
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Human-wildlife interactions in urban areas, both positive and negative, often involve people and birds. We assess the economic value placed on interactions with common native songbirds in two different urban areas (Berlin, Germany and Seattle, Washington, USA) by combining a revealed preference (recalled expenditures on bird feed) and a stated preference approach (determining willingness to pay for conservation or reduction of birds). Residents in both cities purchase bird food, engage in a range of bird-supporting activities and are generally willing to pay a small amount for native songbird conservation. Demographic, cultural and socio-economic factors, as well as specific attitudes towards birds and general attitudes about conservation were found to influence these decisions. This study presents the first attempt at estimating the economic value of enjoying common native urban songbirds and estimates the lower bound to be about 120 million USD/year in Seattle and 70 million USD/year in Berlin.
Article
The concept of value is central to the practice and science of ecological management and conservation. There is a well-developed body of theory and evidence that explores concepts of value in different ways across different disciplines including philosophy, economics, sociology and psychology. Insight from these disciplines provides a robust and sophisticated platform for considering the role of social values in ecological conservation, management and research. This paper reviews theories of value from these disciplines and discusses practical tools and instruments that can be utilised by researchers and practitioners. A distinction is highlighted between underlying values that shape people's perception of the world (e.g. altruistic or biospheric value orientations), and the values that people assign to things in the world (e.g. natural heritage, money). Evidence from numerous studies has shown that there are multiple pathways between these values and attitudes, beliefs and behaviours relevant to ecological management and conservation. In an age of increasing anthropogenic impacts on natural systems, recognising how and why people value different aspects of ecological systems can allow ecological managers to act to minimise conflict between stakeholders and promote the social acceptability of management activities. A series of practical guidelines are provided to enable social values to be better considered in ecosystem management and research.
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Planners and managers responsible for public-trust resources are often faced with making difficult value-laden decisions requiring trade offs between alternative, and often competing, outcomes. To make more informed decisions within volatile socio-political climates, resource managers and planners need an understanding of the benefits local community members would like the resource to produce, and an understanding of the social and psychological factors that influence those preferences. In this research, we focused on two increasingly important factors – social capital and place-based social–psychological attachments – that influence public preferences for management outcomes. We conducted a stated preference field experiment on residents living in three forest related communities within Southern Appalachia in the Southeastern United States. The experiment elucidated responses to hypothetical management plans designed to produce distinctly different outcomes. The results reveal ecologically focused management plans were the most preferred, much more so than plans designed to produce aesthetic, recreational, or economic outcomes. The data also reveal both individuals’ stocks of social capital as well as their place-based social–psychological attachments influence evaluation of competing management outcomes. Our methodological approach and empirical findings advance both the analytical approaches used to study multiple use public resources and existing knowledge regarding how social and psychological factors influence individuals’ decision-making processes.
Article
In this study, we analyze the preferences for recreational use of forests in Lorraine (Northeastern France), applying stated preference data. Our approach allows us to estimate individual-specific preferences for recreational use of different forest types. These estimates are used in a second stage of the analysis where we test whether preferences depend on access to recreation sites. We find that there is significant preference heterogeneity with respect to most forest attributes. The spatial analysis shows that preferences for forests with parking and picnic facilities are correlated with having access to such forests while for the other attributes considered (dominant tree species, trekking paths and presence of lake and rivers) we find no correlation between stated preferences and accessibility. This implies that the problem of endogenous distances in the travel cost method (Parsons, 1991) may be present in the estimation of welfare economic values for parking and picnic facilities in the analyzed model. The results underline the importance of considering spatial heterogeneity of preferences carrying out economic valuation of spatial-delineated environmental goods and that the spatial variation in willingness to pay for such goods is not only explained by the users' transport costs of accessing the sites.
Article
This chapter is based on the findings of a needs assessment survey of Britain's public parks, undertaken by the Institute of Leisure and Amenity Management, on behalf of the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Department for the Environment, Transport and the Regions and English Heritage. The survey followed an earlier exercise which had highlighted the lack of data about this area of Britain's heritage. The chapter focuses particularly on historic parks and is presented in three sections: the first looking at the aims and methodology of the survey and the rate of response; the second considering the survey findings; and the third presenting its conclusions and recommendations. The main aim of the survey was to gather data about public parks in order to assist grant?making by the Heritage Lottery Fund, through its Urban Parks Programme. The returns were used to create a database of local authority owned parks and open spaces, providing details of size, condition, features, facilities, status, conservation designations, visitor numbers and so on. The first section reports on the responses from local authorities, 174 of which had park stock. It notes that a further survey is in process to increase the knowledge base. The second section provides details on individual parks defined by local authorities as being of historic interest; what conservation status or value they are seen to have; what condition they are in; and what features they possess. It goes on to consider the need for objective standards, covering their various uses and the opportunities they provide, as well as for the more easily quantifiable data of size, features and catchment area. The section also includes consideration of local authority knowledge of parks, aspects of best practice, regional variations in conditions, plus recent trends in parks management, such as the known impact of Compulsory Competitive Tendering and the possible effects of Best Value. Finally, the section covers the financial and training needs for the proper maintenance of parks, and considers the questions of the numbers and kinds of park users and ways of reflecting their concerns and needs. The third section notes the general decline in the condition of parks over the last two decades, across the whole of the country. Recommendations include immediate, medium?term and long?term proposals. In the short term, the authors call for the completion and maintenance of the parks database and the dissemination of its findings. In the medium term, they recommend the development of agreed definitions for parks and their features, with national standards, guidance for Best Value, sharing of best practice, development of national and local parks strategies, improved training and career opportunities, and a standard formula for visitor numbers and usage. In the long term, the authors call for greater government recognition of the role of parks in urban regeneration, a comprehensive investment programme, and the encouragement of new ways of involving users, residents and others in the further development of parks.
Article
In this article we discuss the economic approach to evaluate landscape preferences for land-use planning. We then use the choice experiment method to examine public preferences for three landscape features – hedgerows, farm buildings and scrubland – in the Monts d’Arrée region (in Brittany, France), in the context of re-design of landscape conservation policy by the local environmental institute. Surveys were undertaken on two user groups, visitors and local residents. Our objective was to obtain empirical evidence of the difference between the preferences of tourists and residents, for landscape attributes. We then analysed the welfare changes of tourists and residents affected by different landscape programmes. Our results point out the strong divergence between the landscape preferences of the public and those of local public actors. The comparison of the estimated values of willingness to pay for single-attribute landscaping action shows some divergence between residents’ and tourists’ ranking of preferences for agricultural landscape areas. Finally, we find, at least for the socio-economic context examined in this study, that apart from its social, cultural and aesthetic values, rural landscape has economic values, and that agricultural landscape preservation tends to be more beneficial to low-income social groups.
Article
Urban open space provides a number of valuable services to urban populations, including recreational opportunities, aesthetic enjoyment, environmental functions, and may also be associated with existence values. In separate meta-analyses of the contingent valuation (CV) and hedonic pricing (HP) literature we examine which physical, socio-economic, and study characteristics determine the value of open space. The dependent variable in the CV meta-regression is defined as the value of open space per hectare per year in 2003 US$, and in the HP model as the percentage change in house price for a 10 m decrease in distance to open space. Using a multi-level modelling approach we find in both the CV and HP analyses that there is a positive and significant relationship between the value of urban open space and population density, indicating that scarcity and crowdedness matter, and that the value of open space does not vary significantly with income. Further, urban parks are more highly valued than other types of urban open space (forests, agricultural and undeveloped land) and methodological differences in study design have a large influence on estimated values from both CV and HP. We also find important regional differences in preferences for urban open space, which suggests that the potential for transferring estimated values between regions is likely to be limited.