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What Is Greenspace?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 04 November 2016
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Greenspace is an area within an urban environment which is dedicated to nature. One of the most familiar forms of greenspace is a recreational park, such as New York City's famous Central Park, although the space can also take the form of urban wetlands or urban forest canopy. Many societies have historically valued parks, and in the later half of the 20th century, many additional benefits were discovered by researchers.

In an anthropocentric sense, greenspace provides a place to recreate. Many spaces have hiking trails, picnic lawns, and other areas which are geared to human use. People often enjoy wandering around in parks, attending events held in parks such as concerts, and experiencing the natural environment. Many cities around the world have famous parks and greens along with botanic gardens, and some of these spaces have been enjoyed for centuries.

In addition to being nice to look at and enjoyable to play in, greenspace also has a number of other benefits. Researchers on urban temperatures and air quality have discovered that the more greenspace a city has, the healthier it is. Large swaths of green can act as air scrubbers, with plants pulling pollution out of the air and emitting oxygen as a byproduct, and this type of space can also help to regulate the temperature in a city, preventing radical fluctuations which can make urban life unpleasant.

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Greenspace also provides a natural habitat for animals, and in some cases, thriving wildlife communities have arisen in these areas. The space helps to preserve the natural environment and the diversity of regional species, from butterflies to birds, and many biologists believe that this is beneficial.

Greenspace also helps with water conservation. Urban forest canopies reduce the rate of evaporation, keeping water in a city, and urban wetlands help reduce flooding and manage stormwater runoff. The environmental benefits do not generally conflict with human uses, making the choice to prioritize it in city planning much easier.

A growing number of cities have recognized the need for green infrastructure in the form of parks, greenbelts around new development, living walls and roofs, and other measures. Many city plans include a statement about a desire to maintain or expand urban greenspace to make life healthier and more pleasant for residents.

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