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Nature inequity and higher COVID-19 case rates in less green neighbourhoods in the United States. Nature Sustainability 4 (10).2021.
Urban nature—such as greenness and parks—can alleviate distress and provide space for safe recreation during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, nature is often less available in low-income populations and communities of colour—the same communities hardest hit by COVID-19. In analyses of two datasets, we quantified inequity in greenness and park proximity across all urbanized areas in the United States and linked greenness and park access to COVID-19 case rates for ZIP codes in 17 states. Areas with majority persons of colour had both higher case rates and less greenness. Furthermore, when controlling for sociodemographic variables, an increase of 0.1 in the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index was associated with a 4.1% decrease in COVID-19 incidence rates (95% confidence interval: 0.9–6.8%). Across the United States, block groups with lower-income and majority persons of colour are less green and have fewer parks. Our results demonstrate that the communities most impacted by COVID-19 also have the least nature nearby. Given that urban nature is associated with both human health and biodiversity, these results have far-reaching implications both during and beyond the pandemic.
Related data: https://www.sfei.org/data/nature-equity-covid-2021
Integrating Planning with Nature: Building climate resilience across the urban-to-rural gradient. SFEI Contribution No. 1013.2020.
Moffett Park Specific Plan Urban Ecology Technical Report. SFEI Contribution No. 985.2020.
Re-Oaking North Bay. SFEI Contribution No. 947. San Francisco Estuary Institute: Richmond, CA.2020.
Restoration Vision for the Laguna de Santa Rosa. SFEI Contribution No. 983. SFEI: Richmond, CA.2020.
The Laguna de Santa Rosa, located in the Russian River watershed in Sonoma County, CA, is an expansive freshwater wetland complex that hosts a rich diversity of plant and wildlife species, many of which are federally or state listed as threatened, endangered, or species of special concern. The Laguna is also home to a thriving agricultural community that depends on the land for its livelihood. Since the mid-19th century, development within the Laguna and its surrounding watershed have had a considerable impact on the landscape, affecting both wildlife and people. Compared to pre-development conditions, the Laguna currently experiences increased stormwater runoff and flooding, increased delivery and accumulation of fine sediment and nutrients, spread of problematic invasive species, and decreased habitat for native fish and wildlife species. Predicted changes in future precipitation patterns and summertime air temperatures, combined with expanding development pressure, could exacerbate these problems. People who manage land and regulate land management decisions in and around the Laguna, including landowners; federal, state, and local agencies; and local stakeholders, are seeking a long-term management approach for the Laguna that improves conditions for the wildlife and people that call the Laguna home. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife and Sonoma Water funded the Laguna-Mark West Creek Watershed Master Restoration Planning Project to develop such a management approach, focusing on the need to identify restoration and management actions that enhance desired ecological functions of the Laguna, while also supporting the area’s agriculture and its local residents.
Making Nature's City. SFEI Contribution No. 947. San Francisco Estuary Institute: Richmond, CA.2019.
Cities will face many challenges over the coming decades, from adapting to a changing climate to accommodating rapid population growth. A related suite of challenges threatens global biodiversity, resulting in many species facing extinction. While urban planners and conservationists have long treated these issues as distinct, there is growing evidence that cities not only harbor a significant fraction of the world’s biodiversity, but also that they can also be made more livable and resilient for people, plants, and animals through nature-friendly urban design.
Urban ecological science can provide a powerful tool to guide cities towards more biodiversity-friendly design. However, current research remains scattered across thousands of journal articles and is largely inaccessible to practitioners. Our report Making Nature’s City addresses these issues, synthesizing global research to develop a science-based approach for supporting nature in cities.
Using the framework outlined in the report, urban designers and local residents can work together to connect, improve, and expand upon city greenspaces to better support biodiversity while making cities better places to live. As we envision healthier and more resilient cities, Making Nature’s City provides practical guidance for the many actors who together will shape the nature of cities.