In Pursuit of Urban Sustainability: Predicting Public Perceptions of Park Biodiversity Using Simple Assessment Tools
- 2 Downloads
In the face of ongoing global species loss, it is vital that urban societies see the value of biodiversity. However, practical strategies to enhance society’s appreciation of biodiversity are limited by the disparity that exists between public perceptions and expert assessments of biodiversity. To enhance our understanding of this disparity, and to provide insight into the visual cues that influence laypeople’s perceptions of biodiversity, four novel non-expert-dependent assessment tools—along with estimates of vegetation cover and bird species richness—were used to examine the attributes of 134 Australian urban parks. Ordinal regression modelling was used to explore the ability of these tools to predict perceptions of biodiversity and naturalness collected via a public questionnaire that yielded 1894 individual green space perception responses from 840 individuals. Despite researchers theorising otherwise, changes in structural variation were too subtle to significantly influence perceptions. Vegetation cover, habitat diversity, and a proposed Urban Park Naturalness Index (UPNI) were the strongest predictors of perceived biodiversity, explaining 31% of respondent perceptions. Bird species richness significantly influenced perceptions of naturalness but not biodiversity. Despite a relatively weak correlation between perceptions and objective measures (Nagelkerke R-squared = 0.307), we demonstrate how subtle changes in assessed attributes significantly affect predicted perceptions of the environment. For example, every additional habitat type within a park increases the odds of it being in a higher perceived biodiversity category by 31.7%. We suggest further development of simple assessment tools, such as the UPNI, that provide valuable insights into human responses to nature, and can aid the sustainable design and management of urban green space.
Multiple on-site assessment tools developed and used in 134 urban parks to measure green space attributes, and compared with perceptions of 840 urban respondents.
Vegetation cover, UPNI, and habitat diversity were the best predictors of laypeople’s biodiversity perceptions.
Weak relationship between perceived biodiversity and presence of anthropic elements, suggesting conservation and recreation can be successfully balanced.
Subtle changes to certain park attributes significantly influence perceptions, e.g. one additional habitat increases the odds of a park being in a higher “perceived biodiversity” category by 31.7%
Provides insight into the visual cues that influence perceptions of biodiversity, with implications for urban green space design and management.
KeywordsBiodiversity Green space Naturalness Perceptions Species richness Urban parks
The authors wish to thank the respondents who participated in this study. This project was funded by a PhD scholarship from the University of South Australia.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare no conflict of interest.
- Aplet GH, Cole DN (2010) The trouble with naturalness: rethinking park and wilderness goals. In: Cole DN, Yung L (eds) Beyond naturalness: rethinking park and wilderness stewardship in an era of rapid change. Island Press, Washington, pp 12–29Google Scholar
- Australian Bureau of Statistics (2017a) 2016 Census QuickStats: Burnside. http://quickstats.censusdata.abs.gov.au/census_services/getproduct/census/2016/quickstat/LGA40700. Accessed 10 Apr 2018
- Australian Bureau of Statistics (2017b) 2016 Census QuickStats: Mitcham. http://quickstats.censusdata.abs.gov.au/census_services/getproduct/census/2016/quickstat/LGA44340?opendocument. Accessed 10 Apr 2018
- Australian Bureau of Statistics (2017c) 2016 Census QuickStats: Unley. http://quickstats.censusdata.abs.gov.au/census_services/getproduct/census/2016/quickstat/LGA47980?opendocument. Accessed 10 Apr 2018
- Australian Bureau of Statistics (2017d) Data by Region, 2011–2016. CanberraGoogle Scholar
- Bowerman BL, O’Connell RT (1990) Linear statistical models: an applied approach. Duxbury Press, CaliforniaGoogle Scholar
- Chivian E, Bernstein A (2010) How our health depends on biodiversity. Center for Health and the Global Environment, Harvard Medical School, BostonGoogle Scholar
- DEFRA (2011) Attitudes and knowledge relating to biodiversity and the natural environment, 2007–2011. Deparment for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, UKGoogle Scholar
- Ignatieva ME, Stewart GH (2009) Homogeneity of urban biotopes and similarity of landscape design language in former colonial cities. In: Hahs AK, Breuste JH, McDonnell MJ (eds) Ecology of cities and towns: A comparative approach. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 399–421. https://doi.org/10.1017/cbo9780511609763.024 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Jacobs B, Mikhailovich N, Delaney C (2014) Benchmarking Australia’s Urban tree canopy: an i-Tree assessment. University of Technology Sydney, UltimoGoogle Scholar
- Keesing F et al. (2010) Impacts of biodiversity on the emergence and transmission of infectious diseases Nature 468:647–652 doi:http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v468/n7324/abs/nature09575.html#supplementary-information
- LGASA (2014) Open space contribution and funding analysis: Discussion paper. Local Government Association of South Australia, South AustraliaGoogle Scholar
- Meijles EW, de Bakker M, Groote PD, Barske R (2014) Analysing hiker movement patterns using GPS data: implications for park management. Comput Environ Urban Syst 47:44–57. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compenvurbsys.2013.07.005 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- O’Brien L, Townsend M, Ebden M (2008) Environmental volunteering: motivations, barriers and benefitsGoogle Scholar
- Rogers K, Jaluzot A (2015) Oxford i-tree canopy cover assessment. Oxford City Council, OxfordGoogle Scholar
- Simpson K, Day N (2004) Field guide to the birds of Australia. Penguin group, AustraliaGoogle Scholar
- Tilman D, Isbell F, Cowles JM (2014) Biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. Annu Rev Ecol Evol Syst 45:471–493. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-ecolsys-120213-091917 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Zipperer WC, Guntenspergen GR (2009) Vegetation composition and structure of forest patches along urban–rural gradients. In: Hahs AK, Breuste JH, McDonnell MJ (eds) Ecology of cities and towns: a comparative approach. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 274–286. https://doi.org/10.1017/cbo9780511609763.018 CrossRefGoogle Scholar