New tool allows the measurement of the quality of urban green spaces
A research team has developed a tool to evaluate the quality of urban green spaces to better understand their beneficial effects on health. The study has been led by ICTA-UAB, ISGlobal and the Forest Science and Technology Centre of Catalonia (CTFC).
A tool created by scientists from the ICTA-UAB, the ISGlobal and the CTFC makes it possible to evaluate the quality of urban green spaces. The tool is proposed as a measurement instrument which assesses up to 90 different elements of a green space divided into eleven themes: environment, access, facilities, services, aesthetics and attractions, incivism, safety, potential use, land cover, animal biodiversity and bird biodiversity. For example, it evaluates both the quality or quantity of the infrastructure, the aesthetics of the spaces or the number of birds of different families.
Using this tool, the team has evaluated the quality of 149 urban green spaces in Barcelona. This work will allow an epidemiological study in the city, unique in the world, which will help to better understand the relationship between green spaces and human health and will be published soon.
Focusing on quality rather than quantity
Until now, the vast majority of epidemiological studies available have been based on the presence of these spaces or their quantity. This study also focuses on the quality of urban green spaces, that is, “how these spaces should be and what characteristics they should have in order to offer benefits to people”, explains Pablo Knobel, main author of the article and member of the CTFC’s Environment and Human Health Lab (EH2 Lab).
Urban green spaces are associated with different aspects of citizens’ health and well-being, including better mental and general health, improved pregnancy outcomes, child development, or healthy aging in the elderly.
Applications for research and urban management
The study also presents different future applications of the tool. On the one hand, researchers will be able to apply it to study the effect of the quality of urban green areas as a potential source of health benefits. On the other hand, decision makers, such as local governments, may use the results of the tool to refine the design and management of urban green spaces to better meet the needs of the citizens, especially in terms of health and welfare.
Another recent study by Knobel and his team, led by Roser Maneja of the CTFC, highlighted the scarcity of tools and instruments for the study of urban green spaces. In this context, it is necessary to update and maintain tools that evaluate the quality of these spaces as the growing literature points to new health benefits.
Knobel P, Dadvand P, Alonso L, Costa L, Espanol M, Maneja R, Development of the Urban Green Space Quality Assessment Tool (RECITAL), Urban Forestry and amp; Urban Greening (2020), doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ufug.2020.126895
Knobel P, Dadvand P, Maneja R. A systematic review of multi-dimensional quality assessment tools for urban green spaces, Health and Place (2019), doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.healthplace.2019.102198