Sixth Green Commission Hearing - Tuesday, 30 June 2015 - 20 July 2015

wild fox on a garden

The Green Commission held its sixth hearing of evidence in public on Tuesday 30th June, 2015

The focus of this hearing was on Greenspace and the speaker was Professor Philip Warren, University of Sheffield, Dept of Animal and Plant Sciences.

Philip Warren's research is concerned with understanding the structure and function of ecological communities, and threats to their integrity. Applied aspects of these interests include work on the ecology of urban ecosystems and the application of community ecology to managing environmental impacts in freshwater habitats.

65% of Sheffield is green space providing substantial eco-system services.

The ecological footprint of Sheffield is 5.31 gha (global hectares) per capita – we are eroding  natural capital. 

Cities are like a pump, they suck in resources and pump out waste – a very linear system.

Instead inputs could be reduced and  made more sustainable and the outputs (re)cycled

Densification is complicated. Urban form affects urban function. Location matters.

Not all urban greenspace is located in parks. There are 175,000 gardens  including 50,000 compost heaps (each taking 2kg of kitchen waste). That is 5-6 tonnes not going through the waste stream. 

Only around 0.5% of gardens are growing food. Imagine if 10% of gardens did – a potential fast scale-up. We can also increase the number of water butts and grey water use.

Greenspace affects well being – top reasons why people go to the park from a recent survey:

relaxation; escaping from the city;  being ‘in nature’ 

Studies indicate:

Contact with green space reduces salivary cortisol levels

The progress of the ash borer moth (and destruction of ash trees) across the US was found to correlate with a mortality rate increase ( 

Conceptual shifts may be required. There is not only a need for green corridors but also for an increase in the number and distribution of packet parks.

One of the main loses of green space is the subdivision of gardens and building on them. Beyond a certain level of shrinkage, gardens become too small for trees. 

The ‘Green economy’ balances environmental, economic and social processes and innovation to use resources efficiently. It aims to enhance human wellbeing in an inclusive manner whilst maintaining the natural systems that sustain us.

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