Biodiversity, people, and logistics: the balancing act of urban park management

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Horan, Sadhbh
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University College Cork
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In a time when global populations are moving to urban centres, the need for adequate green spaces in towns and cities for the health of both people and nature is paramount. The management of such spaces in Ireland is idiosyncratic and requires investigation. Multiple studies have tried to quantify the key influences to take into consideration when managing an urban park and for this thesis it was determined that the intersection of biodiversity, people and logistics encompassed theses influences. The aim of this study was to determine how best to manage parks in terms of habitat, amenity and management choice, based on the three selected influences. Diversity of vascular plants and fungi were assessed at six parks in Cork city. In addition, park user questionnaires and SOPARC (System for Observing Play and Recreation in Communities) observations were made to quantify people’s park use and opinions. Finally, in order to determine what systems were already in place, structured interviews were undertaken with individuals and organisations who manage urban parks in Ireland. Results show that dry meadow is the optimal choice of habitat for Irish parks due to it high level of biodiversity, its popularity among park visitors, and its compatibility with park amenities however the choice of habitat needs to take abiotic and social factors into account also. Basic amenities such as footpaths and litter bins were preferred over elaborate ones such as outdoor exercise equipment, while overall, recreational facilities were more popular than sports facilities. Logistically, in urban centres where a park management sector was present, it was often underfunded and understaffed, and so while the progress made by these groups is commendable, they are simply not rigorous enough to sustain the growing number and need for urban parks in Ireland. Urban green spaces require a complex understanding of each of the three influences highlighted in this study both across urban centres and within individual parks and cities in order for optimal management to take place.
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Horan, S. A. 2023. Biodiversity, people, and logistics: the balancing act of urban park management. MSc Thesis, University College Cork.
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