Socio-economic and climatic changes lead to contrasting global urban vegetation trends

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Urban greening can enhance quality of life by generating ecosystem services and has been proposed as a way of mitigating adverse consequences of global warming for human health. However, there is limited knowledge on global trends in urban vegetation and their relation to economic development and climate change. Here we studied 1,688 major cities worldwide and show that 70% (1,181) show an increase in vegetation derived from satellite observations (2000–2018). For 68% (1,138) of the cities studied, the increase in the urban vegetation is less strong as compared to the vegetation increase found in the surroundings of these cities. Overall, positive vegetation trends are widely observed in cities in Europe and North America, whereas negative vegetation trends in cities occur primarily in Africa, South America and Asia. Gross Domestic Product growth, population growth as well as temperature are found to be the main underlying drivers of the observed contrasts in changes in urban vegetation as compared to surrounding areas across continents. From a global synthesis of urban vegetation change, we quantify the role of social-economic development and climate change in regulating urban vegetation growth, and the contrasting imprint on cities of developed and developing countries.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102385
JournalGlobal Environmental Change
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
W.Z. and M.B. are supported by ERC project TOFDRY (grant number 947757). We also acknowledge funding from the National Postdoctoral Program for Innovative Talents (grant number: BX20190154), China; and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant number: 42001349). R.F. supported by the Villum Synergy project DeReEco.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Authors

    Research areas

  • Climate change, Economic development, Population change, Urban greening

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