Shanahan, D.F., Lin, B.B, Gaston, K.J., Bush, R., Fuller, R.A. 2015. What is the role of trees and remnant vegetation in attracting people to urban parks? Landscape Ecology, 30, 153-165.
Public parks commonly contain important habitat for urban biodiversity, and they also provide recreation opportunities for urban residents. However, the extent to which dual outcomes for recreation and conservation can be achieved in the same spaces remains unclear. We examine whether greater levels of (i) tree cover (i.e. park ‘greenness’) and (ii) native remnant vegetation cover (i.e. vegetation with high ecological value) attract or deter park visitors. This study is based on the park visitation behaviour of 670 survey respondents in Brisbane, Australia, detailing 1,090 individual visits to 324 urban parks. We first examined the presence of any clear revealed preferences for visiting parks with higher or lower levels of tree cover or remnant vegetation cover. We then examined the differences between each park visited by respondents and the park closest to their home, and used linear mixed models to identify socio-demographic groups who are more likely to travel further to visit parks with greater tree cover or remnant vegetation cover. Park visitation rates reflected the availability of parks, suggesting that people do not preferentially visit parks with greater vegetation cover despite the potential for improved nature-based experiences and greater wellbeing benefits. However, we discovered that people with a greater orientation towards nature (measured using the nature relatedness scale) tend to travel further for more vegetated parks. Our results suggest that to enhance recreational benefits from ecologically valuable spaces a range of social or educational interventions are required to enhance people’s connection to nature.