Fondecyt Iniciación 11190349: Effects of vegetation spatial patterns on urban environmental quality: A multiple scale assessment
Abstract. Currently more than 55% of the human population lives in urban area and is expected that this number goes beyond 65% within the next 30 years. Cities are hubs for innovation, but also places characterized by a variety of environmental problems. As human development depends on urban areas, increasing urban environmental quality is fundamental for advancing towards more sustainable cities. Urban vegetation plays a key role for increasing environmental quality through the provision of ecosystem services within cities. Urban vegetation can reduce air pollution by influencing pollutants deposition and dispersion, and could also decreases air and surface temperatures by evapotranspiration and shading effects. Vegetation within cities provides habitat for several species of birds, and in turn these birds could be used as indicators of the urban environmental quality. Furthermore, urban vegetation has a positive effect on people mental and physical health, and on the level of satisfaction with their neighborhoods. Nevertheless, while we know that urban vegetation is key for increasing urban environmental quality, we have limited information on how to spatially plan vegetation for maximizing the provision of required services. Thus, this project aims to understand what role the spatial patterns of vegetation plays on the provision of key ecosystem services, therefore in urban environmental quality, by using the city of Santiago de Chile as a case of study. To achieve this objective, I will analyze the spatial relationship between the patterns of four different vegetation functional types (i.e. evergreen trees, deciduous trees, irrigated grass, seasonal grass) and four urban environmental quality-related variables (i.e. air pollution, air temperature, bird assemblages, people perception) by using a multiple scale approach attempting to find the specific spatial scales at which vegetation spatial patterns have the largest influence on these environmental variables within Santiago. I will use high resolution satellites images to classify vegetation functional types and calculate vegetation landscape metrics, mobile pollution sensors to measure fine and coarse particulate matter, dataloggers for measuring air temperature, bird counting techniques to measure richness and abundance of birds, and questionnaires to evaluate people perception regarding the environmental quality of their neighborhoods. The spatial relationship between vegetation spatial patterns and the four environmental quality-related variables will be analyzed for data collected in winter and summer in order to understand how phenological seasonality influence the effects of vegetation on ecosystem services provision and urban environmental quality. Results from this work will provide insightful ecological understanding on how vegetation composition and configurational components interact to impact the measured environmental quality-related variables. This knowledge can be useful for informing decision-makers on how to better spatially plan urban vegetation for maximizing the provision of ecosystem services to increase urban environmental quality.