Planning open spaces for Biodiversity: Evaluating Urban Parks for Wildlife Habitat


  • Margaret Livingston
  • Josh Mehlem



Natural open spaces adjacent to developing cities are frequently affected by advancing urban sprawl. It requires a delicate balancing act to conserve habitats while developing new environments for city inhabitants. As landscape architects, planners, and managers of these areas, we continue to explore mitigation strategies for habitats affected by development. One strategy focuses on creating new spaces within development that can fulfil some of the functions previously provided by natural areas and serve as resource links among remaining peripheral natural areas (Forman and Godron, 1986). Previous research has shown that created open spaces, such as parks and golf courses may provide critical habitat functions associated with natural areas if planned appropriately (Mannan and Boal, 2000; Shaw et al, 1998). However, few studies have evaluated the specific characteristics associated with created open spaces for their wildlife habitat value. This research addresses the following question: What is the potential habitat value of current vegetation in urban parks in Tucson, Arizona? The goals of this study were to: 1) evaluate potential habitat value of urban parks using a wildlife habitat value index (Shaw et al, 1998), and 2) provide recommendations emphasising increased biodiversity through habitat development in these open spaces. Most vegetation in the surveyed parks was non-native and provided little escape cover for wildlife. Plant species richness and abundance were relatively low in most parks, but higher for sites where existing native vegetation was incorporated into the park. Recommendations emphasise: 1) appropriate arrangement and placement of species based on functions required by human and wildlife users; 2) increased horizontal and vertical vegetation layers; 3) design focus on regional plant communities; and 4) development of written specifications for parks that address design uses of native species and their maintenance.


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How to Cite

Livingston, M., & Mehlem, J. (2004). Planning open spaces for Biodiversity: Evaluating Urban Parks for Wildlife Habitat. Landscape Review, 9(1), 162 – 165.



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