Measuring urban green space in Australia
We know that trees, parks and open spaces improve the quality of life in busy cities. They contribute significantly to our well-being by improving air quality and giving us somewhere quiet to relax, or come together for recreation and socializing. They also provide important ecosystem services by filtering rain water and reducing run-off. They reduce the temperature of cities, thereby reducing the need for air conditioners and their associated carbon emissions. Shops and cafes in tree lined streets attract more customers.
New research by UTS Institute for Sustainable Futures (ISF) and UTS Science provides insights into how we can grow towards best practice green space planning and management in Australia.
The researchers spoke to a range of people who measure urban green spaces to find out what tools they use to measure, plan and make decisions about urban green spaces (UGS). The researchers conducted interviews and focus groups with planners, horticulturalists, ecologists, scientists, geospatial analysts, GIS specialists, landscape architects, policymakers and public servants from across Australia. These stakeholders provided insights into the methods and measures they use to manage and plan urban, peri-urban and suburban green spaces nationally.
The researchers also reviewed the scientific literature and developed a catalogue of “hard” and “soft” tools used in Australia and overseas. Soft tools are documented/published methodologies of analysis. Hard tools are codified methodologies or software implementations of such methodologies. They found some tools measure bio-physical aspects such as number of trees, tree canopy, number of parks and size of green space. Others aim at measuring the “performance” of urban green space such as its biodiversity potential, ecosystem service provision, or recreation benefits.
The researchers also asked: What coherent decision-support framework could foster best practice UGS planning and management in Australia? Stakeholders were asked about the characteristics a framework would need in order to shift practice and maximise the likelihood of its broad adoption.
Based on their findings, the researchers produced a blueprint to foster best-practice UGS planning and management in Australia. This blueprint acknowledges there are a number of different entry points into decision making around urban green spaces. The decisions that need to be made, and therefore the best measures and tools to support these decisions, will vary depending on whether the entry point is at the planning, policy, management or engagement point.
The research was presented at the recent Making Cities Liveable (Brisbane) and Ecocity World Summit (Melbourne) where it received positive feedback.
The final research report, which includes a description of the methodology used, the catalogue of tools that can be used to characterise, benchmark and monitor UGS assets, case studies showing how the tools have been used and recommendations is now available:
Plant RA, Cunningham R, Berry F, Madden B, Hageer Y, Huete A, (2017) Measuring Urban Green Space in Australia (PDF) Final Technical Report prepared for Horticulture Innovation Australia Limited by the Institute for Sustainable Futures (ISF) and the Faculty of Science Climate Change Cluster (C3), University of Technology Sydney, Australia.
This research was funded by Hort Innovation with co-investment from the University of Technology Sydney, Australian nursery and garden industry levy funds, Australian turf industry levy funds and funds from the Australian Government.