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Climate and Health: Density with Large Green Parks, Best Cities?

Sep 01, 2015 04:17 PM EDT
Central Park in New York City
Populations in high-density cities are greatly benefited by large parks and added natural greenery. Aside from increasing one's happiness and overall health, the flora absorbs water and stores carbon.
(Photo : Wikimedia Commons )

Researchers who analyzed nine cases of cities worldwide now say that, going forward, it will be important to plan cities to have dense urban spaces alongside large, contiguous green spaces -- a policy known to urban planners as "land sparing." Those researchers, from the universities of Exeter and Hokkaido, found that this amount of land sparing will allow us to maintain ecosystems. At the same time, "sharing" a bit of the land--via having large parks--will allow people to feel happier and less penned-in. 

Since half the world's population lives in cities - a number that is only increasing - researchers have long considered whether compact developments with large parks or natural reserves are preferable over suburban areas with smaller parks and gardens, according to a news release.

"As populations continue to grow, it's vital that we expand our cities and build new ones in a way that is most sustainable for ecosystems, and which provides the greatest benefits to urban residents," lead author Dr. Iain Stott, from the University of Exeter's Environment and Sustainability Institute (ESI) on the Penryn Campus in Cornwall, U.K., said in the release. "Our research finds that compact developments that include large green spaces are essential for the delivery of ecosystem services. For humans to get the most benefit however, combining this approach with greening of built land using street trees and some small parks and gardens is the best method."

While urban areas with large natural reserves did yield the most benefits, the researchers noted that small parks in the suburbs are not to be forgotten.

"Future urban development must be carefully planned and policy-led, at whole-city scales, to yield the best result," co-author Professor Kevin Gaston, of the University of Exeter's ESI, added.

Their research was recently published in Frontiers in Ecology and Environment.

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