Land-sparing, land-sharing and use of urban greenspace

Soga, M., Yamaura, Y., Aikoh, T., Shoji, Y., Kubo, T. & Gaston, K.J. (2015) Reducing the extinction of experience: Association between urban form and recreational use of public greenspace. Landscape and Urban Planning 143, 69-75.shutterstock_309919712
(Image from Shutterstock)

Halting the ‘extinction of experience’, the progressive disengagement of people with the natural world, is vital to human health and wellbeing and to public support for global biological conservation. Home to the majority of humanity, urban areas are the key for engaging people with nature, raising the crucial question of how cities should best be designed to facilitate these experiences. For the purposes of maintaining local biodiversity, intensive development within a small area (land sparing) has been shown to be better than extensive development over a large area (land sharing). Here, we investigated for the first time how different city forms affect people’s experience of nature, measured in terms of their use of greenspaces. We selected five pairs of land-sharing and land-sparing study regions with different coverage by greenspaces within the city of Tokyo, central Japan and used a questionnaire survey to determine the use residents made of these spaces. We found the frequency of people’s recreational use of urban greenspaces was higher in urban land-sharing than land-sparing regions. Moreover, satisfaction with local green environments was also higher in land-sharing regions. This suggests a potential conflict in the design of cities between the urban form that is most desirable for the direct protection of regional biodiversity, and that which best promotes people’s nature experiences and the support for its wider protection. A strong emphasis on the advantages of land sparing may increase the separation of humans from nature, and further reduce public interest in, and awareness of, biodiversity and its benefits.