Barcelona Study Finds Impact of Urban Green Space Is Appreciable, but Small

by Dan McCabe

One aspect of urban ecology that is often overlooked in development is the biological benefit of vegetation in cities. In order to quantify the environmental impact of urban plants, Baró et al. (2014) analyzed the effect of green spaces on air quality and carbon sequestration in the city of Barcelona, Spain. The authors randomly selected nearly 600 small plots of land within the city limits and collected field data on the plant life and pollutant levels in each. This information, along with meteorological data, was then processed using i-Tree Eco software, which quantified the biological and economic effects of vegetation on both air quality and climate change. In this software model, green space is treated as providing two kinds of ecosystem benefits—defined as air purification and global climate regulation—as well as one harmful consequence, the emission of biogenic volatile organic compounds (BVOCs). For this case study, the model focused only on the levels of particulate matter (PM10) and NO­2 and no other pollutants that harm air quality, because Barcelona has recently had exceedingly high concentrations of these two pollutants. Continue reading