Ecosystems within urban regions: green space
Parks and other public recreational spaces (e.g. school ﬁelds, sports pitches, university campuses, playgrounds; Figure 4.1) are among the largest and most contiguous
vegetated areas within urban regions. Total land cover of parks/recreational spaces varies notably among regions. Jim and Chen (2008) indicate that urban parks account for 1.8 per cent of Hong Kong and 2.5 per cent of Singapore, while Keefe and Giuliano (2004) note that parks cover around 13 per cent of New York City. Variation in extent will also depend on the way parks and recreational spaces are classiﬁed; some studies include ‘reserves’ or fragments of relatively pristine habitats, while others only consider managed recreational spaces as ‘parks’ or ‘parkland’. In some cases these spaces are intensively managed but may contain remnants of
pre-urban ecosystems (e.g. woodland patches – Clarkson et al., 2007; Jim and Chen,
Singapore is widely perceived as a ‘garden city’ with abundant green space – a feat which is all the more remarkable given the urbanisation pressures faced by the self-contained island state (Tan, 2006). The original rainforest ecosystem present before urbanisation has largely been lost, despite some early attempts to conserve it. Singapore originally contained many areas of rainforest and mangrove forest established as nature reserves during British rule in the late nineteenth century, though legislations protecting the reserves were revoked and reinstated several times to allow for urban development, even after colonial rule ended in 1963. Currently only three rainforest reserves remain, though this still covers a sizeable total land area of 2138 ha (Ooi, 2011). But Singapore has been highly proactive in encouraging the creation of green space. Urban development has mainly been in the vertical dimension, with multistorey buildings constructed to ensure that current urban space is used most efﬁciently. Much of the urban greening of Singapore has occurred in the last 50 years,
from initial attempts to plant trees alongside urban infrastructure to the full intention to create a ‘garden city’, with the formal creation of a Garden City Action Committee in 1973, which still exists (Tan, 2006). Initiatives have resulted in an abundance of parks and street trees, as well as the creation of living roofs or ‘roof gardens’ (Yuen and Hien, 2005). A benchmark aim of 0.8 ha of green space per 1000 citizens has been established by the Garden City Action Committee, with Yuen and Hien (2005) recording an availability of 0.6 ha per 1000 citizens in 2005. Singapore certainly compares favourably to many other areas, with 7 m2 of green space per capita in 2004 (Jim and Chen, 2008). Singapore has also been forward-thinking with respect to spatial planning
and networks of green space. Tan (2006) presented a green network plan for Singapore (see Figure 8.3), noting that clear guidelines exist in terms of connecting greenway corridors (e.g. size), and that around 360 km of greenways are planned for the next two to three decades, mainly connecting key park areas. Such a network should improve the living environment for residents as well as increasing biodiversity. Singapore may be an excellent model for marrying urban greening with compact urban development, and a refreshing alternative to ongoing urban expansion elsewhere. It also highlights what can be achieved with appropriate political and societal support for green space planning.