Urban Ecosystems

, 11:269 | Cite as

City-wide relationships between green spaces, urban land use and topography

  • Richard G. Davies
  • Olga Barbosa
  • Richard A. Fuller
  • Jamie Tratalos
  • Nicholas Burke
  • Daniel Lewis
  • Philip H. Warren
  • Kevin J. Gaston


The growing proportion of human populations living in urban areas, and consequent trends of increasing urban expansion and densification fuel a need to understand how urban form and land use affect environmental quality, including the availability of urban green spaces. Here we use Sheffield as a case study of city-wide relationships between urban green space extent, quality (vegetation cover and tree-cover), and gradients in urban form and topography. The total area of buildings and length of the road network are equally strong negative predictors of extent of green space, while the former predictor is a more important negative influence upon green space quality. Elevation positively influences extent of green space but negatively influences tree-cover. In contrast, slope of terrain positively influences green space quality and is the best predictor of tree-cover. Overall housing density is a more important negative predictor of extent of green space and tree-cover than the densities of individual housing types. Nevertheless, the latter are more important influences upon levels of vegetation cover. Threshold effects of densities of different housing types suggest opportunities for optimising green space quality, with implications for housing policy. Variation in ecological quality of green space may partly reflect different historical intensities of industrial activity.


Housing density Normalised difference vegetation index Tree-cover Topography Urban form 



We thank R. Bryant for technical advice. This work was supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (through the CityForm research consortium). Ordnance Survey kindly provided MasterMap data under license to the consortium. K.J.G. holds a Royal Society-Wolfson Research Merit Award.


  1. Bennett J, Dixon M (2006) Single person households and social policy: looking forwards. Report of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, York. www.jrf.org.uk/bookshop. Cited 30 May 2007
  2. Bolitzer B, Netusil NR (2000) The impact of open spaces on property values in Portland, Oregon. J Environ Manag 59:185–193CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bolund P, Hunhammar S (1999) Ecosystem services in urban areas. Ecol Econ 29:293–301CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Brande A, Böcker R, Graf A (1990) Changes of flora, vegetation and urban biotopes in Berlin (West). In: Sukopp H, Hejný S, Kowarik I (eds) Urban ecology: plants and plant communities in urban environments. SPB Academic, The Hague, pp 155–165Google Scholar
  5. Burnham KP, Anderson DR (2001) Model selection and multi-model inference: a practical information-theoretic approach. Springer, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  6. CABE Space (2004) The value of public space: how high quality parks and public spaces create economic, social and environmental value. CABE Space, LondonGoogle Scholar
  7. Colding J (2007) Ecological land-use complementation for building resilience in urban ecosystems. Landsc Urban Plan 81:46–55CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. DETR (2000) Our Towns and Cities: the future—full report. Department of Transport and the Regions, LondonGoogle Scholar
  9. Duhme F, Pauleit S (1998) Some examples of different landscape systems and their biodiversity potential. Landsc Urban Plan 41:249–261CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Dunnett N, Quasim M (2000) Perceived benefits to human well-being of urban gardens. Hort Technol 10:40–45Google Scholar
  11. Er KBH, Innes JL, Martin K, Klinkenberg B (2005) Forest loss with urbanization predicts bird extirpations in Vancouver. Biol Conserv 126:410–419CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Fuller RM, Smith GM, Sanderson JM, Hill RA, Thomson AG, Cox R, Brown NJ, Clarke RT, Rothery P, Gerard FF (2002) Countryside Survey 2000 Module 7: Land Cover Map 2000. Final Report CSLCM/Final. Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Monks WoodGoogle Scholar
  13. Fuller RA, Irvine KN, Devine-Wright P, Warren PH, Gaston KJ (2007) Psychological benefits of greenspace increase with biodiversity. Biol Lett 3:390–394PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fuller RA, Armsworth PR, Warren PH, Tratalos JA, Barbosa O, Gaston KJ (2008) Garden bird feeding predicts the structure of urban avian assemblages. Div Distrib 14:131–137CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Galea S, Ahern J, Rudenstine S, Wallace Z, Vlahov D (2005) Urban built environment and depression: a multilevel analysis. J Epidemiol Community Health 59:822–827PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gaston KJ, Smith RM, Thompson K, Warren PH (2004) Gardens and wildlife—the BUGS project. Br Wildl 16:1–9Google Scholar
  17. Gaston KJ, Warren PH, Thompson K, Smith RM (2005a) Urban domestic gardens (IV): the extent of the resource and its associated features. Biodiv Conserv 14:3327–3349CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gaston KJ, Smith RM, Thompson K, Warren PH (2005b) Urban domestic gardens (II): experimental tests of methods for increasing biodiversity. Biodiv Conserv 14:395–413CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hawbaker TJ, Radeloff VC, Hammer RB, Clayton MK (2005) Road density and landscape pattern in relation to housing density, land ownership, land cover, and soils. Landsc Ecol 20:609–625CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hey D (2005) A history of Sheffield. Carnegie Publishing, LancasterGoogle Scholar
  21. Kühn I, Klotz S (2006) Urbanization and homogenization—comparing the floras of urban and rural areas in Germany. Biol Conserv 127:292–300CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Legendre P (1993) Spatial autocorrelation—trouble or a new paradigm. Ecology 74:1659–1673CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Lennon JJ, Greenwood JJD, Turner JRG (2000) Bird diversity and environmental gradients in Britain: a test of the species-energy hypothesis. J Anim Ecol 69:581–598CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Luttik J (2000) The value of trees, water and open space as reflected by house prices in the Netherlands. Landsc Urban Plan 48:161–167CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. McPherson EG, Nowak D, Heisler G, Grimmond S, Souch C, Grant R, Rowntree R (1997) Quantifying urban forest structure, function, and value: the Chicago Urban Forest Climate Project. Urban Ecosyst 1:49–61CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Morancho AB (2003) A hedonic valuation of urban green areas. Landsc Urban Plan 66:35–41CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Myeong S, Nowak DJ, Hopkins PF, Brock RH (2001) Urban cover mapping using digital, high-spatial resolution aerial imagery. Urban Ecosyst 5:243–256CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Nowak DJ, Crane DE, Stevens JC, Ibarra M (2002) Brooklyn’s urban forest. United States Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, North-Eastern Forest Experiment Station, General Technical Report NE-290. Radnor, PennsylvaniaGoogle Scholar
  29. ODPM (2002) Planning Policy Guidance Note 3 (PPG 3). Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. HMSO, LondonGoogle Scholar
  30. Ordnance Survey (2006) OS MasterMap User Guide. Version 6.1.1. Ordnance Survey, Southampton, UKGoogle Scholar
  31. Pauleit S (2003) Urban street tree plantings: identifying the key requirements. Proc Inst Civil Eng Munic Eng 156:43–50Google Scholar
  32. Pauleit S, Duhme F (2000) Assessing the environmental performance of landcover types for urban planning. Landsc Urban Plan 52:1–20CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Pauleit S, Ennos R, Golding Y (2005) Modeling the environmental impacts of urban land use and land cover change—a study in Merseyside, UK. Landsc Urban Plan 71:295–310CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Quinn GP, Keough MJ (2002) Experimental design and data analysis for Biologists. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  35. Smith RM, Gaston KJ, Warren PH, Thompson K (2005) Urban domestic gardens (V): relationships between landcover composition, housing and landscape. Landsc Ecol 20:235–253CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Smith RM, Thompson K, Hodgson JG, Warren PH, Gaston KJ (2006) Urban domestic gardens (IX): Composition and richness of the vascular plant flora, and implications for native biodiversity. Biol Conserv 129:312–322CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Swanwick C, Dunnett N, Woolley H (2003) Nature, role and value of green space in towns and cities: an overview. Built Environ 29:94–106CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Takano T, Nakamura K, Watanabe M (2002) Urban residential environments and senior citizen’s longevity in megacity areas: the importance of walkable green spaces. J Epidemiol Comm Hlth 56:913–918CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Theobald DM, Miller JR, Hobbs NT (1997) Estimating the cumulative effect of development on wildlife habitat. Landsc Urban Plann 39:25–36CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Thompson K, Austin KC, Smith RH, Warren PH, Angold PG, Gaston KJ (2003) Urban domestic gardens (I): Putting small-scale plant diversity in context. J Veg Sci 14:71–78CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Thompson K, Hodgson JG, Smith RM, Warren PH, Gaston KJ (2004) Urban domestic gardens (III): Composition and diversity of lawn floras. J Veg Sci 15:371–376Google Scholar
  42. Thompson K, Colsell S, Carpenter J, Smith RM, Warren PH, Gaston KJ (2005) Urban domestic gardens (VII): a preliminary survey of soil seed banks. Seed Sci Res 15:133–141CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Tratalos J, Fuller RA, Warren PH, Davies RG, Gaston KJ (2007) Urban form, biodiversity potential and ecosystem services. Landsc Urban Plann 83:308–317CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Ulrich RS (1998) View through a window may influence recovery from surgery. Science 224:420–421CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. UNDP (United Nations Development Programme), United Nations Environment Programme, World Bank, and World Resources Institute (2000) World Resources 2000–2001. Elsevier Science, AmsterdamGoogle Scholar
  46. United Nations (2004) World urbanization prospects: the 2003 revision. United Nations, New YorkGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard G. Davies
    • 1
    • 2
  • Olga Barbosa
    • 1
    • 3
  • Richard A. Fuller
    • 1
  • Jamie Tratalos
    • 1
  • Nicholas Burke
    • 4
  • Daniel Lewis
    • 4
  • Philip H. Warren
    • 1
  • Kevin J. Gaston
    • 1
  1. 1.Biodiversity and Macroecology Group, Department of Animal and Plant SciencesUniversity of SheffieldSheffieldUK
  2. 2.Centre for Ecology, Evolution and Conservation, School of Biological SciencesUniversity of East AngliaNorwichUK
  3. 3.Instituto de Ecología y Biodiversidad (IEB)SantiagoChile
  4. 4.Parks and Countryside Service, Trees and Woodlands SectionSheffield City CouncilSheffieldUK

Personalised recommendations