Vegetation cover along socio-economic gradients in Brisbane

Shanahan, D. F., Lin, B. B., Gaston, K. J., Bush, R. & Fuller, R. A. (2014) Socio-economic inequalities in access to nature on public and private lands: a case study from Brisbane, Australia. Landscape and Urban Planning 130, 14–23.

IMG_0550Opportunities to experience nature are important for human wellbeing, yet they are often inequitably distributed across society. Socio-economic variation can explain some of this inequity, but there has been relatively limited consideration of how access to different kinds of nature experiences varies across society. Here we examine how tree cover (as a measure of the general ‘greenness’ of urban environments) and native remnant vegetation cover (as a measure of access to higher quality natural areas) varies across the socio-economic gradient within public parkland and residential yards in Brisbane, Australia. We found that most tree cover was provided on residential land, and spatial regression models revealed that tree cover in both public parkland and private spaces was strongly positively related to socio-economic advantage. Conversely, most remnant vegetation cover was located on public parkland, and this was only weakly positively related to socio-economic status. These results suggest that municipal management of remnant vegetation can support equity in access to high quality nature experiences across the socio-economic gradient. However, the results also highlight the important role of residential yards in providing access to nature in general, as these areas provide the majority of overall tree cover. Thus, while public policy can enhance equity in access to nature on public lands, strategies such as social marketing and incentives that enhance nature within private spaces are important particularly within more disadvantaged neighbourhoods.