COMPATIBILITY OF SOCIAL AND ECOLOGICAL FUNCTIONS OF URBAN GREEN SPACES

UoM administered thesis: Phd

  • Authors:
  • Ishtiaque Shams

Abstract

Provision of multifunctional urban green spaces (UGSs) is increasingly recognised as an important sustainable urbanisation tool that can alleviate challenges of rapid urbanisation while itself facing its adverse impacts. Research showed that UGSs are necessary for citizens’ psychological and social wellbeing and also serve as a means of counteracting the loss of natural landscapes. These two functions – the social and the ecological – make UGSs a focal point of human-nature interactions in the urban environment. Given the scarcity of land in urban areas, there is now advocacy for multifunctional UGSs which can provide both functions. Such ‘dual provision’ raises questions about the compatibility of user and provider preferences and perceptions of dual provision as well as the compatibility of the functions themselves. These questions were addressed by this research through its two key outcomes: the development of a theoretical understanding and the formulation of a multi-phase implementation guideline. The research involved a mixed methods approach to collect empirical evidence from four UGSs in Manchester and Leeds, the selection of which was based on size, proximity to city centre, and level of deprivation among community members. The research tools included intercept and photo elicitation interviews with green space users; direct observation of usage behaviour in different paths and patches within the study sites; semi-structured key informant interviews with academics, government and non-government green space managers; and ecological surveys of habitats and biodiversity of trees, ground flora and birds in the study sites. The findings of this research can be synthesised into four key outputs. Firstly, user and provider preferences support dual provision. It was found that users have a greater inclination towards UGSs which are natural or have some natural elements. While some of the preferred activities or goals of UGS visitation require less natural areas like open lawns, others require much wilder areas where people can connect with nature and have restorative experiences. Hence, based on user preferences, multifunctionality in the sense of both natural/less managed spaces along with less natural/more managed spaces is desirable in green spaces. Additionally, providers of UGS considered dual provision to be both possible and desirable in UGSs. Secondly, user demand, knowledge and funding act as barriers/opportunities to dual provision. Key personnel who are involved in the management or research of UGS, stated that user demand, knowledge and understanding about green spaces, and budget/funding served as key barriers/opportunities to providing and maintaining such areas. According to them, greater awareness and knowledge dissemination among the general population as well as green space managers, wider public engagement during planning stages, development of implementation guidelines for managers, and use of context specific innovative measures can enable providers to overcome the barriers and create more opportunities for dual provision. Thirdly, known aspects of dual provision match user perceptions. Users perceived dual provision (mixed) UGSs more favourably compared to either natural or manicured green spaces. The positive perception about dual provision was linked to their ability to provide naturalness along with social elements like paths, benches, other users, and open spaces. Fourthly, social and ecological functions are compatible under certain conditions. It was found in this study that large mixed patches like parklands have positive interactions or synergies between the two functions while urban patches like ornamental gardens exhibit negative interactions or conflicts. The analysis indicated parklands, woodlands, and waterbodies to be the most suitable patches for dual provision. This was followed by grasslands and outdoors sports areas, where social and ecological functions could only be provided through proper management.

Details

Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
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Award date1 Aug 2018