Urban centre green metrics in Great Britain: A geospatial and socioecological study

Jake M. Robinson, Suzanne Mavoa, Kate Robinson, Paul Brindley

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2 Citations (Scopus)
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Green infrastructure plays a vital role in urban ecosystems. This includes sustaining biodiversity and human health. Despite a large number of studies investigating greenspace disparities in suburban areas, no known studies have compared the green attributes (e.g., trees, greenness, and greenspaces) of urban centres. Consequently, there may be uncharacterised socioecological disparities between the cores of urban areas (e.g., city centres). This is important because people spend considerable time in urban centres due to employment, retail and leisure opportunities. Therefore, the availability of––and disparities in––green infrastructure in urban centres can affect many lives and potentially underscore a socio-ecological justice issue. To facilitate comparisons between urban centres in Great Britain, we analysed open data of urban centre boundaries with a central business district and population of ≥100,000 (n = 68). Given the various elements that contribute to ‘greenness’, we combine a range of different measurements (trees, greenness, and accessible greenspaces) into a single indicator. We applied the normalised difference vegetation index (NDVI) to estimate the mean greenness of urban centres and the wider urban area (using a 1 km buffer) and determined the proportion of publicly accessible greenspace within each urban centre with Ordnance Survey Open Greenspace data. Finally, we applied a land cover classification algorithm using i-Tree Canopy to estimate tree coverage. This is the first study to define and rank urban centres based on multiple green attributes. The results suggest important differences in the proportion of green attributes between urban centres. For instance, Exeter scored the highest with a mean NDVI of 0.15, a tree coverage of 11.67%, and an OS Greenspace coverage of 0.05%, and Glasgow the lowest with a mean NDVI of 0.02, a tree cover of 1.95% and an OS Greenspace coverage of 0.00%. We also demonstrated that population size negatively associated with greenness and tree coverage, but not greenspaces, and that green attributes negatively associated with deprivation. This is important because it suggests that health-promoting and biodiversity-supporting resources diminish as population and deprivation increase. Disparities in green infrastructure across the country, along with the population and deprivation-associated trends, are important in terms of socioecological and equity justice. This study provides a baseline and stimulus to help local authorities and urban planners create and monitor equitable greening interventions in urban/city centres.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0276962
Number of pages24
JournalPLoS One
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 23 Nov 2022


  • green infrastructure
  • Urban ecosystem
  • urban centres
  • socio-ecological justice
  • NDVI


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