The University of Massachusetts Amherst

How do disparities in access to biodiversity in urban spaces affect disparities in human well-being?

Warren & Chan Team Photo

Street trees, parks, waterways, and other pockets of urban nature are the primary places where people in cities have access to biodiversity. But in many cities, only the wealthiest residents have access to urban nature that is high in biodiversity. At the same time, it remains unclear how much the biodiversity of urban nature matters to human well-being. For example, does it matter to human well-being whether the green spaces around us are comprised of mowed green lawns as opposed to trees, shrubs, and a wide variety of animal life? The answer to this question greatly impacts how communities and policymakers take action to enhance access to urban nature in cities, particularly now that climate change is generating new pressures to enlist urban natural areas as components of climate adaptation and mitigation efforts. This project seeks to quantify both the value of everyday exposure to urban biodiversity for human well-being and the ways that inequities in access to urban nature and biodiversity contribute to inequalities in well-being. The investigators (from left above, Paige Warren environmental conservation and Nathan Chan, resource economics) will conduct pilot analyses using large nationwide datasets, with a goal of submitting proposals to the National Science Foundation addressing distributional and procedural inequities in urban climate mitigation efforts. The project will involve cross-disciplinary training of graduate students and will foster partnerships with non-profit organizations in a set of target cities where disparities are strongest.