The Ecosystem Service City

Urban Green Space (UGS) contributes to a range of ecosystem services such as cleaning pollution from the air, reducing flooding and cooling the city. They are also a place for people to socialize, exercise or just relax. Municipalities use map data to help manage their city’s resources. However traditional maps may tell us where most municipal owned green space is, but not what it means to the people who use it. 

UGS is not only officially recognised parks, there are many other places nature may enhance urban living. For example a particular street might be a favoured spot for lunch due to the availability of benches with shade from trees. Nature may find space in (and change how we relate to) less obviously “green” places; hearing bird song or feeling a cool sea breeze helps reconnect us to nature even when surrounded by the city. 
Research shows that when we are connected with nature, not only are we happier we are healthier too.
Sustainable cities need to provide a good quality physical and social environment yet are faced with increasing demand for urban services such as housing and under growing pressures from climate change. So we need to understand what role ecosystem services play in society. What kinds of places do people choose to jog, play football, BBQ or just ‘hang out’? What kinds of nature do people find in places which are not officially ‘green’? 

By investigating what UGS related activities people are talking about (in public) on social media platforms such as Twitter, it is hoped to include a wider variety of opinion than only those who are reached by traditional surveys and consultations. This could lead to more inclusive ways to inform how our cities are managed.

Much of social media content is unrelated to these issues. The challenge is to find the relevant posts and derive from these general measures which both reflect the interests of a diverse population and respect individual privacy. So field work will also be carried out to better understand how what people say about their city on social media compares with wider public opinion.