Appreciation of informal urban greenspace by Japanese and Australian residents


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Do Japanese and Australian residents appreciate informal urban greenspace? Preliminary results from a case comparison study by Christoph Rupprecht (

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  • Appreciation of Informal Urban Greenspace by Japanese and Australian Residents – by Christoph Rupprecht. Based on a talk given at Japanese GeoScience Union Conference 2013.
  • Three basic criteria. To better understand informal urban greenspace, I created a typology.
  • Different types exist, such as street verges, vacan lots or railway verges. Theyvary in maintenance level, ownership, shape, size and accessibility. But why is IGS important?
  • Three reasons: urban recreation, city planning and urban ecosystems. And of course: most people now live in cities.
  • Case comparison study: two cities very similar in some aspects, but different in others. Both cities are young coastal cities with a clear urban core. Sapporo has higher pop. density and less park space. Next, research design.
  • Research designed to cover large geographical area. Survey kit included overview sheet and detailed explanation of IGS with photo examples. Low response rate. To start, we need to ask if residents know IGS in their area.
  • Over 80% of respondents in Sapporo know IGS, over 90% in Brisbane. What types?
  • The IGS types residents know best in both cities are the same. If most residents know of IGS in their neighborhood, do they like it?
  • Overwhelmingly positive opinion in Brisbane, mixed to positive opinion in Sapporo. However: Negative opinion below 10% in both cities!
  • Perceived benefits show some similarities (e.g. ecosystem services, scenery) and some differences (e.g.). Overall, Brisbane residents named a much larger number of benefits.
  • Again, some similarities: most common issue is littering, but “unwanted individuals” also perceived as a problem. Differences in vandalism (human action related) and scenery. Again, Brisbane residents had a higher number of answers. People are reporting benefits and problems – are they using IGS?
  • Clear difference in adult recreational use. Reported activities, however, are the same in both cities. Users from both cities say they use IGS because it is close to home, and most report no problems. But what about use during childhood?
  • In comparison, large majority of residents in both cities used IGS as a child or teenager, most of them daily or weekly. Popular activities are similar.
  • Residents report mostly no problems during childhood use. They used IGS, because it was close to home (same reason for adult use), because it is wild and exciting and because there are no use restriction like in parks. Next: reflections of the survey respondents as qualitative answers.
  • The respondents provided detailed, well-thought out comments on informal greenspace. Several themes stood out: comments on the use of IGS, about the role of IGS for children, and about the relationship of humans, nature and IGS in the city. Rather than analysing them, I want to let the comments of the residents speak for themselves.
  • IGS is seen in the context of a struggle between nature and the human, ordered world. (quote)
  • Residents also voiced their concern, be it about the look of IGS or its safety. (quote)
  • Many residents reflected on their childhood IGS experience, and pointed out how important IGS is for children.
  • Finally, residents tried to explain why they are fascinated by IGS. For some, it was the philosophical problem of human control over nature, and what we loose by controlling it. (quotes). Before coming to the end of the presentation, I want to share some preliminary analysis results.
  • In the data I have shown you, we have seen a number of similarities between Sapporo and Brisbane residents, but also a number of differences, for example in the evaluation and use of informal greenspace. Lets look at some factors that might explain some differences. These results are only preliminary, and more analysis is needed. Cultural factors may be one reason, as in the example of building a tree house in IGS as a child. There was also a bias towards high income earners in Brisbane respondents. Age and sex do not seem to play a large role. Local IGS characteristics (such as cover % and type) as well as general resident attitude toward urban nature have to be examined further. So to summarise: (next slide)
  • The four main points are this: 1. residents know, appreciate and use IGS. 2. IGS has a very important role for children’s play. 3. Residents perceive a number of benefits of IGS, but also point out problems – we need more research. That brings us to the last point: 4. IGS is emerging as a new field of urban landscape study, and there are a number of policy implications: climate adaptation, child-friendly cities and birth rate, urban planning.
  • Thank you very much for your attention! If you are interested in this topic, feel free to follow me on my research blog, twitter or on Google+. You can also find this presentation and another presentation focusing on the qualitative comments of residents at Slideshare. I also have a handout available with the IGS typology. Questions?
  • Appreciation of informal urban greenspace by Japanese and Australian residents

    1. 1. Christoph RupprechtPhD CandidateEnvironmental Futures Centre, School of EnvironmentInvited talk at Japanese Geoscience Union 2013Appreciation of Informal Urban Greenspaceby Japanese and Australian Residents
    2. 2. What is informal urban greenspace?Vegetated urban space:1. Human-modified (anthropogenic)2. Dominated by spontaneousvegetation (not planted)3. Not recognised or managed as• recreational space• agricultural space• conservation space no gardens, parks etc.
    3. 3. Typology of informal urban greenspaceStreet verge GapRailway Brownfield WatersideLotsStructural Microsite Powerline
    4. 4. Why is informal greenspace important?Recreation benefits• Walking, exercise• Nature experience• Enjoying the scenery• Gardening …Ecological benefits• Biodiversity• Animal/plant habitat• Eco-services (e.g. O2 production)Planning topic• Urban landscape appreciation• Growing/dense cities• Shrinking cities
    5. 5. Two cities: case study locationsLocation Brisbane SapporoFounded 1824, city status 1902 1868, city status 1922Population 1,07 mil. (2010)  1,3 mil. (2031) 1,9 mil. (2011)  1,8 mil. (2030)Pop. density 770/km2 (peak >5,000/km2) 1,700/km2 (peak >8,000/km2)Park space 32m2 per person 12m2 per person
    6. 6. Study & questionnaire design• Letterbox-drop mail-back questionnaire• ~2000 households per city• In 400m radius of 121 sites on grid• Information sheet & overview of IGS types• Main sections1. IGS known in neighborhood2. IGS use3. IGS use as child or teenager4. IGS appreciation5. Attitude towards urban nature6. Demographics• Response rate: 6% Brisbane, 8% Sapporo Brisbane n=121, Sapporo n=163
    7. 7. 010203040506070None Few (1-5) Some (5-10) Many (over 10)%ofrespondentsSapporoBrisbaneResidents’ perception of IGS How many informal greenspaces doyou know of in your neighbourhood?
    8. 8. Residents’ perception of IGS (2)What types of IGS do you know?Sapporo Brisbane77% Lots 72%56% River banks 66%54% Street verges 61%
    9. 9. Residents’ perception of IGS (3)010203040506070Better Both Worse Neutral%ofrespondentsSapporoBrisbane Would you say informal greenspacemakes your daily life better or worse?
    10. 10. Residents’ perception of IGS (4) Benefits of informal greenspaceSimilarities Sap. Bris.“Every bit of green in the city is good” 67% 75%“Plants filter air and produce oxygen” 49% 74%“Grasses, trees and flowers are niceto look at” 46% 73%“It provides a place to relax” 27% 39%Differences Sap. Bris.“Wildlife can live in them” 39% 89%“It makes the neighborhood moreinteresting” 24% 66%
    11. 11. Residents’ perception of IGS (5) Problems of informal greenspaceSimilarities Sap. Bris.“Littering” 91% 87%“Full of weeds” 59% 58%“Breeding ground for pest animals” 36% 39%“Attracts unwanted individuals” 31% 32%Differences Sap. Bris.“Vandalism” 18% 58%“Looks filthy and unorderly” 43% 27%
    12. 12. Residents’ use of informal greenspace Do you use IGS for recreational activities?0%10%20%30%40%50%60%%ofrespondentsSapporo BrisbaneSimilar activities:1. Walking2. Enjoying the view3. Observing plants/animals4. Walking the dog• “Close to home” top use reason• >70% report no use problems
    13. 13. Residents’ use of IGS in childhood Did you use IGS as a child or teenager?0%20%40%60%80%100%%ofrespondentsSapporo Brisbane>70% used IGS daily or weeklyMost popular activities• Playing games• Exploration• Observing plants and animals• Secret hiding place from adults
    14. 14. Residents’ use of IGS in childhood (2)No ball play!>75% report no use problemsReasons for using IGS• Near home• Wild & exciting• No use restrictions• No nice parks (Sapporo)• Not crowded (Brisbane)
    15. 15. Residents’ voices: reflection on IGS“It’s real, not fake like a park.” – Male, 41, Brisbane
    16. 16. Residents’ voices: reflection on IGS (2)“We live in a very organisedworld – it’s good when naturetakes over and reminds us thatwe only have temporary use ofthe space. In the urbanenvironment, man usually winsthe battle against nature, so it isnice to see nature fightingback where it can.”– Female, 62, Brisbane
    17. 17. Residents’ voices: reflection on IGS (3)“There is nothingpleasant, calming or relaxing inlooking at a bit of a mess. […] It’sthe abandoned element I don’tlike.”– Female, 55, Brisbane“Space that’s unmaintained andwhere people’s eyes don’t reachare dangerous.”– Male, 45, Sapporo
    18. 18. Residents’ voices: reflection on IGS (4)“Children can experiencenature, come in touch with allkind of living things, learn aboutthe preciousness of life. It’s alsoa great chance for them to makeup their own games and rulesrather than just use the play toolsthey are given.”– Female, 39, Sapporo
    19. 19. Residents’ voices: reflection on IGS (5)“A neutral zone that belongs to nobody isnecessary: left-overroom, margins, interstices, space. A lifelike in the city, where man-made objectsare surrounded by nothing but artificialgreenspace, is suffocating.”– Male, 45, Sapporo“Unlike maintained greenspace, it hassomething you can grasp with all fivesenses, and I don’t want it to disappear.”– Female, 35, Sapporo
    20. 20. Preliminary analysis resultsPotential explanations: Cultural factors Respondent income✗ Age✗ Sex? Local IGScharacteristics? Resident attitude0%10%20%30%40%50%%ofrespondentsSapporo BrisbaneBuilding a tree house as child0%10%20%30%40%< 200 200 -400400 -600600 -800800 -10001000 -1250> 1250%ofrespondentsYearly income in Mio. YenSapporoBrisbane
    21. 21. Summary: appreciation of IGSPeople know, appreciate & use IGSImportant role for children’s playPotential benefits & problemsNew field – policy implications
    22. 22. Thank you! Questions…?Follow me @Blog: www.treepolis.orgTwitter: @focxGoogle+: Christoph RupprechtThis presentation is available @ Slideshare!