Tragedy of the Green Space Commons: Ecosystem Services and Equity in the Denver Metropolitan Area

Authors: Joshua Baldwin*, University of Denver
Topics: Human-Environment Geography, Urban Geography, Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: green space, ecosystem services, equity, commons, environmental justice, Denver
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Virtual 25
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Urban green space (UGS) provides environmental, social, health, and economic benefits to their surrounding communities. UGS – and their concomitant ecosystem services – can be considered pure public goods, a type of urban commons. However, studies show that communities of color and low-income populations are likely to live in neighborhoods that lack access to high-quality UGS. Much of the existing literature examining the provision of UGS uses crude measures of quality such as park facilities, maintenance, crime, and safety. These one-dimensional properties of quality do not capture the robust ecology of UGS or the cultural services they provide. The goals of this project were 1) to develop a multidimensional ecosystem services index for UGS; 2) operationalize the index by collecting ecological, cultural, and GIS data for selected UGS; and 3) determine positive and negative correlations between the UGS index scores and various socio-economic variables. Correlations between UGS quality and socio-economic variables varied widely across my 3-city study area, but a clear pattern emerged. One city’s census block groups had substantially higher ecosystem services scores than the other two. Additionally, results suggest statistically significant racial, gender, education, and income disparities. This project pushes UGS equity research forward, by introducing an ecosystem services approach for measuring UGS quality. The results from this project will soon be publicly available as a web GIS, which will help shine a light on local UGS disparities and hopefully guide future planning.

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