- NSF-PAR ID:
- Date Published:
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- Nature Sustainability
- Medium: X
- Sponsoring Org:
- National Science Foundation
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null (Ed.)Urban nature can alleviate distress and provide space for safe recreation during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, nature is often less available in low-income and communities of color—the same communities hardest hit by COVID-19. We quantified nature inequality across all urbanized areas in the US and linked nature access to COVID-19 case rates for ZIP Codes in 17 states. Areas with majority persons of color had both higher case rates and less greenness. Furthermore, when controlling for socio-demographic variables, an increase of 0.1 in Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) was associated with a 4.1% decrease in COVID-19 incidence rates (95% confidence interval: 0.9-6.8%). Across the US, block groups with lower-income and majority persons of color are less green and have fewer parks. Thus, communities most impacted by COVID-19 also have the least nature nearby. Given urban nature is associated with both human health and biodiversity, these results have far-reaching implications both during and beyond the pandemic.more » « less
Preserving and restoring wildlife in urban areas benefits both urban ecosystems and the well‐being of urban residents. While urban wildlife conservation is a rapidly developing field, the majority of conservation research has been performed in wildland areas. Understanding the applicability of wildland science to urban populations and the relative importance of factors limiting species persistence are of critical importance to identifying prescriptive management strategies for restoring wildlife to urban parks.
We evaluated how habitat fragmentation, habitat quality and mortality threats influence species occupancy and persistence in urban parks. We chose California quail
Callipepla californicaas a representative species with potential to respond to urban conservation. We used publicly available eBird data to construct occupancy models of quail in urban parks across their native range, and present an application using focal parks interested in exploring quail reintroduction.
Urban parks had a 0.23 ± 0.02 probability of quail occupancy, with greater occupancy in larger parks that were less isolated from potential source populations, had higher shrub cover and had lower impervious cover. Less isolated parks had higher colonization rates, while larger parks had lower extinction rates. These results align with findings across urban ecology showing greater biodiversity in larger and more highly connected habitat patches.
A case study highlighted that interventions to increase effective park size and improve connectivity would be most influential for two highly urban focal parks, while changes to internal land cover would have a relatively small impact. Low joint extinction probability in the parks (0.010 ± 0.013) indicated reintroduced populations could persist for some time.
Synthesis and applications. We show how eBird data can be harnessed to evaluate the responsiveness of wildlife to urban parks of variable size, connectivity and habitat quality, highlighting what management actions are most needed. Using California quail as an example, we found park size, park isolation and presence of coyotes are all important drivers of whether quail can colonize and persist in parks. Our results suggest reintroducing quail to parks could be successful provided parks are large enough to support quail, and management actions are taken to enhance regional connectivity or periodic assisted colonization is used to supplement local populations.
The COVID-19 pandemic has limited people’s visitation to public places because of social distancing and shelter-in-place orders. According to Google’s community mobility reports, some countries showed a decrease in park visitation during the pandemic, while others showed an increase. Although government responses played a significant role in this variation, little is known about park visitation changes and the park attributes that are associated with these changes. Therefore, we aimed to examine the associations between park characteristics and percent changes in park visitation in Harris County, TX, for three time periods: before, during, and after the shelter-in-place order of Harris County. We utilized SafeGraph’s point-of-interest data to extract weekly park visitation counts for the Harris County area. This dataset included the size of each park and its weekly number of visits from 2 March to 31 May 2020. In addition, we measured park characteristics, including greenness density, using the normalized difference vegetation index; park type (mini, neighborhood, community, regional/metropolitan); presence of sidewalks and bikeways; sidewalk and bikeway quantity; and bikeway quality. Results showed that park visitation decreased after issuing the shelter-in-place order and increased after this order was lifted. Results from linear regression models indicated that the higher the greenness density of the park, the smaller the decrease in park visitation during the shelter-in-place period compared to before the shelter-in-place order. This relationship also appeared after the shelter-in-place order. The presence of more sidewalks was related to less visitation increase after the shelter-in-place order. These findings can guide planners and designers to implement parks that promote public visitation during pandemics and potentially benefit people’s physical and mental health.more » « less
null (Ed.)Urban parks and green spaces provide a wide range of ecosystem services, including social interaction and stress reduction. When COVID-19 closed schools and businesses and restricted social gatherings, parks became one of the few places that urban residents were permitted to visit outside their homes. With a focus on Philadelphia, PA and New York City, NY, this paper presents a snapshot of the park usage during the early phases of the pandemic. Forty-three Civic Scientists were employed by the research team to observe usage in 22 different parks selected to represent low and high social vulnerability, and low, medium, and high population density. Despite speculation that parks could contribute to the spread of COVID-19, no strong correlation was found between the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in adjacent zip codes and the number of park users. High social vulnerability neighborhoods were associated with a significantly higher number of COVID-19 cases ([Formula: see text]). In addition, no significant difference in the number of park users was detected between parks in high and low vulnerability neighborhoods. The number of park users did significantly increase with population density in both cities ([Formula: see text]), though usage varied greatly by park. Males were more frequently observed than females in parks in both high vulnerability and high-density neighborhoods. Although high vulnerability neighborhoods reported higher COVID-19 cases, residents of Philadelphia and New York City appear to have been undeterred from visiting parks during this phase of the pandemic. This snapshot study provides no evidence to support closing parks during the pandemic. To the contrary, people continued to visit parks throughout the study, underscoring their evident value as respite for urban residents during the early phases of the pandemic.more » « less
Green spaces are beneficial for physical and mental health, especially during and after disasters. The COVID-19 pandemic, however, created a trade-off: parks could be therapeutic but also could expose people to infection. This paradox posed inequities as marginalized populations often have less access to parks and were hit harder by the pandemic. We combined cellphone-generated mobility data with demographic indicators, a neighborhood survey, and local infection rates to examine how residents of Boston, MA, navigated this trade-off in April–August 2020. We hypothesized that they adopted strategies for mitigating infection exposure—including fewer park visits and prioritizing parks that might have lower infection risk, including larger parks with more opportunity for social distancing and parks near home with fewer unfamiliar faces—but that marginalized populations would have less opportunity to do so. We also introduce a novel measure of exposure per visit based on the volume of other visitors, infection rates, and park size. Bostonians made fewer park visits relative to 2019 and prioritized larger parks and parks closer to home. These strategies varied by community. Experiences of the pandemic were influential, as communities that perceived greater risk or had more infections made more park visits, likely because they were a relatively safe activity. Communities with more infections tended to avoid nearby parks. Inequities were also apparent. Communities with more Black residents and infections had greater infection exposure per visit even when controlling for the types of parks visited, highlighting difficulties in escaping the challenges of the pandemic.