Green spaces vital to healthy urban life says study

Cities should feature compact development alongside large green spaces to maximise benefits of urban ecosystems to residents, say a team from the UK’s University of Exeter working alongside Hokkaido University in Japan.

More than half the world’s population now lives in cities and previous research has demonstrated that urban green spaces and trees yield far-reaching benefits, from increased happiness and health to absorbing surface water run-off and storing carbon.

Now, the team has concluded that high-density cities featuring large parks or nature reserves yield the most benefits – although they stress that smaller parks and gardens should not be sacrificed and still play a positive role.

Dr Iain Stott, from Exeter’s Environment and Sustainability Institute said: “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.

“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.”