Urban green spaces: An integrative approach

An older article that just now popped up in the Urban Forestry LinkedIn discussion group:

Urban Green Spaces and an Integrative Approach to Sustainable Environment” by Shah Md. Atiqul Haq, in the Journal of Environmental Protection, 2011, 2, 601-608 doi:10.4236/jep.2011.25069 –Published Online July 2011 (http://www.scirp.org/journal/jep).


This paper explains the benefits and challenges of urban green spaces based on the critical discussion of study results from different studies in different cities. The important roles played by green spaces are social, economic, cultural and environmental aspects of sustainable development. Urban green spaces can be a comprehensive tool for long term protection of environmental sustainability through improving the quality of life and air quality, increasing property value due to their amenity and aesthetic characteristics, and reducing the energy costs of cooling buildings. Urban green spaces also can provide ecosystem services in which the recreation and relaxation facilities are especially available to urban dwellers and tourists too. To confirm the multiple roles played by green spaces, certain level of qualitative improvements and distribution of green spaces within the urban area should be considered and incorporated effectively into the environmental sustainability agenda. To do this, an integrated approach regarding the planning, monitoring, designing and maintaining of urban green spaces is required for improving the environmental sustainability in cities in different countries.

Erwin – 26 Feb 2015

Urban green spaces – a comment
Patrick Cardiff, Economist at the Bureau of Economic Analysis, comments:

Shah Haq’s paper is fine. I think his biggest contribution to the literature is to set land-use pressure to the European context. The premises, well-thought-out exposition and conclusion are fine. However, I would like to see more empiricism – proof of the assumptions from actual data – than is shown. He seems to be merely repeating what is expected, that is, the obvious. He defines green space adequately, and notes comparisons of some cities’ green space sizes in Europe. But I don’t see anything new here.

Whenever you have multidimensional benefits (or costs) you lose the conclusions from not controlling for one or more of the competing or conflicting effects. It’s impossible to interpret, infer, because you don’t know which effect is most prevalent. The study cries out for, at minimum, the development of a green spaces index, that would rank, codify and weight the various amenities that Mr. Haq STATES that green spaces provide – namely, “The important roles played by green spaces are social, economic, cultural and environmental aspects of sustainable development.” Then also, the problems of land competition and use are so site-specific that one cannot standardize the findings as “lessons learned.” Truly the competition for free public land is a reverse NIMBY issue often, and these can differ completely, even 5 miles apart! Wikipedia has a nice piece under the descriptor “Land use conflict.”

I would think in order to prove the value of green space to cities it would be necessary to fix that (those) value(s) against competing interests, such as the building of schools, and then to try to tease apart the weighted effects (at least), so as to interpret outcomes in a rank procedure of benefit importance, all the while taking into consideration how WELL you measure.

Otherwise this is a reasonable primer for the problem in a European setting.