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Habitat International 56 (2016) 84e95

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Urban green spaces, their spatial pattern, and ecosystem service value:
The case of Beijing
Liyan Xu a, b, Hong You a, Dihua Li a, Kongjian Yu a, *
Peking University, China
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: Green spaces provide various kinds of ecosystem service functions. Though some of them, such as the
Received 11 January 2016 carbon-sinking and biodiversity preservation functions are of value to everyone, others, especially those
Received in revised form related to aesthetic and recreational functions, only benet people who have direct access to green
16 April 2016
spaces. In urban settings, where ecosystem services in the second category prevail, this means the spatial
Accepted 25 April 2016
dimension of urban green spaces, including their richness, accessibility, shape conguration, and
distributional characteristics, may considerably inuence the realization of their ecosystem service value,
and is therefore subject to scrutiny. In this paper, we study how the spatial pattern of urban green spaces
Urban green spaces
inuence the realization of their ecosystem service value by utilizing the Hedonic Price Modeling (HPM)
Ecosystem service method. Taking Beijing as the case, we use the price and other information in the city's developable land
Spatial pattern transaction records from 2000 to 2004 to construct the HPM, and use Landscape Ecological Metrics
Landscape Ecological Metrics (LEM) (LEM) as proxies of the spatial characteristics of urban green spaces. Four LEMs are used to measure the
Hedonic Price Model (HPM) above mentioned spatial characteristics of urban green spaces. While subject to certain shortcomings in
Beijing data quality and quantitative estimations of the magnitude of the spatial effects cannot be made, results
show that most spatial characteristics of urban green spaces do inuence their ecosystem service value
as embedded in land value, except for the shape conguration characteristic for which the study yields
no result. Further, specically for Beijing, results indicate that in order to effectively realize their
ecosystem service value, green spaces should occupy between 2.20% and 13.40% of the total urban area,
located within a 50e550 m range from other developments, with green space patches so divided that
each patch occupies more than 3.00% but less than 62.50% of the total green space area, and the
ecosystem service value will be at the optimal level when each patch occupies 20.00% of the total green
space area. Lastly, we stress the practical signicance of the ndings, urging an integration of the spatial
patterns aspect of urban green spaces in urban planning practices.
2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction Green spaces, including forest, grassland, farmland, etc., play a

crucial role in the global ecosystem, and urban green spaces in
Urban areas across the world have been facing threatens from particular are commonly regarded as a remedy to the urban envi-
environmental degradation (McMichael, 2000), and the situation is ronmental problems. They help remove air and water pollution (Jim
especially severe in fast urbanizing and industrializing developing & Chen, 2008; De Ridder et al., 2004), preserve biodiversity
countries, such as China (Stern, Common, and Barbier, 1996; Liu & (Mortberg & Wallentinus, 2000), and create an amenable atmo-
Diamond, 2005; Economy 2011). Environmental degradation not sphere which benets people's physical and mental health (De
only causes physical harms like air and water pollution (Booth & Vries et al. 2003; Hillsdon, Panter, Foster, & Jones, 2006; Jim &
Jackson, 1997; Shao, Tang, Zhang, & Li, 2006), but also inicts Chen, 2006; Jiang, Larsen, Deal, & Sullivan, 2015).
mental problems to the urban residents (Jiang, Zhang, and Sullivan, An interesting question, though, is how much value have urban
2015), and thus constitutes an urgent issue to address. green spaces realized in improving the environment. Technically, a
feasible way to answer the question is by evaluating the ecosystem
service value generated by urban green spaces (Go  mez-Baggethun
& Barton, 2013). However, in the absence of a market for urban
* Corresponding author.
0197-3975/ 2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
L. Xu et al. / Habitat International 56 (2016) 84e95 85

green spaces, one needs non-market evaluating methods to esti- Specic spatial characteristics to be examined include the richness,
mate the former's value in monetary terms (McConnell & Walls, accessibility, distribution, and shape conguration of urban green
2005). Seminal works of this kind can be attributed to Costanza spaces. Using empirical data from Beijing, China, we construct
et al. (Costanza et al. 1997), who invented a constructed quantitative models to examine the spatial effects, and also explore
willingness-to-pay method to estimate the service value of the their practical implications. We hope our work will not only
global ecosystem. This study established a unit value-based contribute to the academic literature, but also have practical im-
paradigm for evaluating the value of ecosystem services, which pacts and could thus help build a better urban environment.
despite some innate drawbacks (Bingham, Bishop, & Brody, 1995; The paper is organized as follows. Section two provides a review
Pearce, 1998), has since been widely applied in ecosystems of of relevant studies and methods. Section three discusses the
various types and scales (Rapport, Gaudet, & Karr, 1998), and green modeling approach, measurement of spatial characteristics, and
spaces in particular, with a fairly large geographical coverage data issues. Section four presents the results, with detailed
(Costanza, Stern, & Fisher, 2004; Cilliers, Cilliers, Lubbe, & Siebert, demonstration of the spatial effects resulting from different rich-
2012; Bateman et al. 2013). ness, accessibility, distribution, and shape conguration variables.
However, the unit value-based method is built implicitly on Section ve offers further analysis on the quantied estimation of
the assumption that the ecosystem service value is independent of the spatial effects, as well as discussions on the possible reasons for
the spatial dimension. This may hold true at the global or other very the non-signicant results. We conclude the paper in section six
large scales, as in the case of the above mentioned Costanza et al.s with a summary of the study and discussions on the study's prac-
work. But at smaller scales, the assumption is not as sound from a tical implications.
landscape ecology perspective, which states though some
ecosystem service functions, such as carbon sinking, are location-
insensitive, others are not. Indeed, as Forman (Forman, 1995) 2. Evaluating the ecosystem service value of urban green
noted, green space patches with different spatial attributes (rich- spaces and the inuence of their spatial patterns: a literature
ness, accessibility, shape conguration, and distributional charac- review
teristics) may have different ecological functions in a landscape,
and they therefore should convey varied amount of ecosystem As there does not exist a market for urban green spaces in most
service value. For example, Xie et al. (Xie, Xiao, & Lu, 2006) occasions, people's willingness-to-pay for urban green spaces could
demonstrate that the soil and water preservation service of forests only be measured through indirect approaches (McConnell & Walls,
is much less important in plains than in slope terrains, thus is of less 2005). The price of real estate, for example, is a commonly used
ecosystem service value in the former case. Particularly, in urban proxy, which is considered to include a green space premium e
contexts, where the most prominent ecosystem service functions the willingness-to-pay for accessibility to urban green spaces so as
are regarding the aesthetic and recreational aspects, the spatial to enjoy the ecosystem service they provide. The Hedonic Price
dimension matters even more profoundly. It is therefore necessary Model (HPM) (Chau, Ma, & Ho, 2001) is a typical method to sepa-
to study the relationship between the spatial pattern of urban rate out the green space premium from real estate prices.
green spaces and their ecosystem service value, a subject the HPM assumes that the price of a commodity, such as an apart-
existing literature sheds little light on. ment unit or a land parcel, includes the contributions from its
The lack of research attention on the issue not only constitutes various innate and environmental characteristics (Lancaster, 1966).
an academic gap, but has also inicted negative inuences in real- Therefore, one may identify the willingness-to-pay for each feature
world practices. The argument above suggests that urban planners involved using analytical techniques such as multivariate regres-
and managers should pay as much attention to the spatial dimen- sion. Specically, for urban real estates, their prices are usually
sion of urban green spaces as the quantity. However, despite certain considered to consist of the contributions from three categories of
degrees of academic coverage, the notion appears not quite characteristics: the structural (such as the size of a land parcel or
commonly appreciated in practice, resulting an overemphasis on the unit plan type of an apartment), neighborhood (such as the
the latter and neglect of the former in many occasions (Haase et al. transportation accessibility), and environmental (such as nearby
2014). For example, some large cities in China have adopted an amenity and recreational facilities) variables (Poudyal, Hodges, &
occupation/compensation balance of urban green spaces policy,1 Merrett, 2009). A typical Hedonic Price Model is thus formulated
requiring developers who destruct urban green spaces to create as follows:
new ones elsewhere. In practice, however, for quite understandable X X X
reasons, such make-up green spaces usually locate in the exurbia or ln pi b0 bj Sij bk Nik bl Eil i (1)
even remoter areas. Such practices, letting alone the obvious po-
litical ecological problem they imply (Heynen, Perkins, & Roy, where ln pi denotes the logarithm of the price of the i-th real estate
2006; Wolch, Byrne, & Newell, 2014), cause losses in ecosystem object, Sij denotes its j-th structural variable, Nik denotes its k-th
service value, too, as urban green spaces ecosystem service func- neighborhood variable, and Nik denotes its l-th environmental
tions, such as the city beautication and micro-climate control, are variable. b0 , bj , bk , bl , and i are the respective estimates of
only meaningful where population concentrates, and the loss of regression coefcients and the residual term.
such services in the city center cannot be compensated by as Therefore, the HPM can be used to evaluate the value of urban
large, or even larger green spaces in remote areas where their green spaces when they serve as the environmental variables in
ecosystem service value hardly realizes. Equation (1). Loads of works of this sort have been done during the
In this paper, we study the relationship between urban green past half-century (McConnell & Walls, 2005), covering various
spaces spatial pattern and the ecosystem service value they convey. green space types such as natural habitats, parks, planted forests,
wetlands, and farmlands. The divergent inuences of different
green space types have also been widely discussed (Bolitzer &
Netusil, 2000; Neumann, Boyle, & Bell, 2009).
For example, Guidelines for the Basic Ecological Control Line Management for the
city of Wuhan, see
Particularly, regarding the urban green spaces, the subject of this
action?id1201205242201590014; and Regulations on Urban Green Spaces for the study, detailed studies have been conducted concerning their in-
city of Qingdao, see uence on real estate value (Bolitzer & Netusil, 2000; Poudyal et al.,
86 L. Xu et al. / Habitat International 56 (2016) 84e95

2009). While some studies fail to nd a relationship between the spaces, which in some cases could occupy as much as 35% of the
two (Morancho, 2003), most empirical evidences show that real total area. These second-order land uses are not designated at the
estate values are indeed positively correlated to the existence of master planning level. Rather, they are designated ad hoc when it
nearby urban green spaces. Other inquiries have gone further to comes to the detailed planning of specic land parcels, and there-
reveal such relationship's dependency on spatial proximity, as fore these second-order land uses, such as green spaces, do not
measured by the distance between urban green space locations and count in the statistics of the respective land use class. As a result,
real estate sites (Czembrowski & Kronenberg, 2016; Morancho, the database that we use in this study only consist of the land
2003; Sander & Polasky, 2009; Tajima, 2003; Tyrvainen & parcels that are classied into the rst-order green spaces land
Miettinen, 2000). use class. This data quality issue may lead to certain estimation
With these progresses, however, the majority of the literature errors, as previous studies have otherwise pointed out (Derkzen,
has not addressed other spatial characteristics of urban green van Teeffelen, & Verburg, 2015). In the absence of any better
spaces, e.g. the richness, distribution, and shape conguration geographical data source of urban green spaces, we use the above
characteristics, and their inuence on nearby real estate values. mentioned database anyway. However, conceptually, the omission
Among the few works that do cover this issue, Kong, Yin, and of second-order urban green spaces may almost surely result in
Nakagoshi (2007) show that real estate values in Jinan, China are estimation errors in the following modeling. We address this
indeed inuenced by the spatial patterns of urban green spaces as problem whenever encountered later in this paper.
represented by a size-distance index, as well as by the richness of
urban green space. Poudyal, Hodges, Tonn, & Cho, 2009, studying a 3.1.2. Land transaction records
real estate transaction sample in the City of Roanoke, Virginia, have We use the complete record of developable residential land
gone further and showed that open space plots with square shape transactions in Beijing from 2000 to 2004 as basic dataset for
and smooth, straight edges were preferred to those with more analysis. As noted above, the HPM requires market price data of
complex shapes and irregular edges, and that open spaces in few housing or land transactions. In this study, the main reason for
larger plots are preferred to many smaller scattered pieces. Meth- using land rather than housing data is data availability concerns.
odologically, what is worth noting in these works is that they use With reliable ofcial or third-party database for housing trans-
Landscape Ecological Metrics (LEM) to quantify the spatial char- actions unavailable, there seems to be no alternative but to use the
acteristics of urban green spaces, and thus to construct the envi- land data for which the full record is available. Moreover, there are
ronmental variables in the HPM. We borrow this method in our evidences that the housing market during that period was domi-
paper, too, which we elaborate in the next section. Despite these nated by speculation and therefore bore a bubble (Hui & Yue,
works, research on the spatial aspect of urban green space and their 2006), thus violating the market equilibrium assumption which is
ecosystem service values is quite limited in both types of spatial essential for the HPM.
characteristics involved and real-world cases covered. All in all, to The land transaction data, however, has its own problems. On
remedy the lack of relevant research, a systematic examination on the one hand, as noted above, the database consists of all residential
the spatial effects of urban green spaces on real estate values in a land transaction records during the study period, thus constituting
real-world setting is needed. a valuable source of land market data. On the other hand, however,
whether the land price-formulating mechanism in Beijing during
the study period was completely free-market based is questionable,
3. Methodology
which may result in some problems. We explain the problem as
3.1. Data
China's urban land is owned by the state by law, and the urban
land market (strictly speaking, it is the market for the leasehold
3.1.1. Urban green spaces and other basic geographical features
rights of urban land) has been evolving since the 1988 real estate
We use an ofcial Geographic Information System (GIS) data-
reform. Different land price-formulating mechanism dominates in
base of Beijing, produced in 2004, as our basic geographical data-
different periods, and these mechanisms form a full spectrum from
base in this paper. The database consists the location and shape of
totally central-planned economy to totally free-market styles. The
all major urban green spaces in the city, as well as other
traditional way, known as the land acquisition by governmental
geographical features such as administrative boundaries, streets,
allocation approach, is not a market-based mechanism at all.
roads, and public transit lines and stops which are necessary for
Indeed, land price under such a mechanism is usually 0. Since early
computing the neighborhood variables for the HPM. The key
1990s, however, a new market-based mechanism began to prevail,
geographical features are shown in Fig. 1, and the location and
which is known as the land transfer by agreement approach.
shapes of Beijing's urban green spaces are shown in Fig. 2. Ac-
Under this mechanism, land price is based on the agreement be-
cording to the data, Beijing's urban green spaces occupy about 10%
tween the local government and the entities seeking leasehold
of the area in the city's Inner Eight Districts,2 which is also the
rights, and market-based methods, such as the market comparison
spatial extent covered in this study (i.e. whenever referred, Bei-
method and the replacement costs method, have been developed
jing means the Inner Eight Districts of the city).
to determine the land price. However, though having some market
It should be noted, however, that the urban green spaces here do
features, this mechanism is, to say the most, a semi-marketized one
not include all urban green spaces in the general sense. According
(Mak, Choy, & Ho, 2007), as the procedure of land price determi-
to China's land use classication system, urban land are classied
nation is usually not transparent, and there is usually no free entry
into certain main categories, including residential, commercial,
to the land market for all market entities. Lastly, rst experimented
industrial, transportation, and green spaces, etc. However, within
in some cities in 2002 and becoming prevail nationwide after Aug
the rst-order categories such as residential or commercial land
31, 2004, a new, fully marketized mechanism, known as the land
use, there are second-order land use sub-categories, such as green
transfer by bidding, auction, and listing mechanism was intro-
duced, and land price under this mechanism should represent a
Including: Dongcheng, Xicheng, Chongwen, Xuanwu, Haidian, Chaoyang,
totally free-market value.
Fengtai, Shijingshan. Chongwen and Xuanwu had been annexed to Dongcheng and Specically, in Beijing, the bidding, auction, and listing
Xicheng Districts, respectively in 2010. mechanism was rst introduced in Dec 8, 2003, and became the
L. Xu et al. / Habitat International 56 (2016) 84e95 87

Fig. 1. Key geographical features of the study area.

only mechanism after Sep 1, 2004. This means that in our land prices to reect constant 2000 Yuan value. The location and price of
transaction database, which covers the land transaction records the land transactions are also shown in Fig. 2.
between 2000 and 2004, only a fraction of the transactions are
based on the bidding, auction, and listing mechanism, and the
3.2. Measurements of the spatial pattern: Landscape Ecological
rest are all based on the agreement mechanism. As noted above,
the latter is not a fully marketized one. Problem is, we do not know
how marketized the prices are. Irrational (by a free market stan-
The quantication of the various spatial characteristics of urban
dard) land prices may exist in some cases, rational ones may exist in
green spaces is key to the study, for which Landscape Ecological
others. In the absence of a better data source, and considering other
Metrics are the most widely used tool (Wu & Hobbs, 2002). In this
merits of the database (for example, China's current land regulation
paper, we select four indices to measure the richness, accessibility,
system prohibits any secondary land market, which has repressed
distribution, and shape conguration characteristics of green space
any chance of speculation and thus prevented a bubble to form,
patches, as shown in Table 1.
maintaining a relatively rational market land price), we opt to still
We compute the DIST metric in ESRI ArcGIS, and all others in
use the database. However, the above mentioned problems may
Fragstats 4.2. As the CAR, LDI, and LSI metrics are only meaningful
affect the analysis results, which we address later when
in a given area of landscape, one must rst designate the specic
landscape area to calculate these metrics. In this study, we desig-
There are in total 3659 land parcels in the dataset, with infor-
nate a 500  500 m window as the basic landscape area for analysis,
mation on land area size, land use (residential for all cases),
as it is roughly the average distance between green space patches in
approved development intensity (Floor-to-Area Ratio, FAR), and
the study area such that at least one patch is included in each
transaction price for each parcel. We have ination-adjusted all
window. Moreover, to get the metric values within the whole
88 L. Xu et al. / Habitat International 56 (2016) 84e95

Fig. 2. Green space parcels and land transactions in Beijing, 2000e2004.

landscape (study area), we perform a convolution with a sliding OLS regression to estimate the model, with both the dependent
window of the 500  500 m size mentioned above, and calculate variable (land price) and the environmental variables (landscape
the average landscape metric values within the landscape. The re- metrics) logarithmic transformed.
sults are shown in Fig. 3. It should to be noted here that due to the Regarding the variables, we rst include two variables: land
existence of some No Data areas produced in the convolution parcel size and approved structure area size in the structural group
process, the real estate transaction records which happen to locate Sij . As noted above, all land parcels are of the same designated land
in these holes cannot get a value of the metrics, and thus must be use (residential), so land use is not included as a variable here.
excluded from the respective model. Hence, though the model with Second, we include ve variables: distances to city center, district
the DIST variable can include all 3659 samples, the ones with the center, nearest highway entrance, nearest urban street, and nearest
CAR, LDI and LSI variables only have a sample size of 2922. bus stop in the neighborhood group Nik . It should be noted that not
all the variables would necessarily enter the nal model, for issues
such as multicollinearity may render some variables statistically
3.3. Specication of the Hedonic Price Model
Lastly and most importantly, variables in the environmental
We specify the HPM in this study following Equation (1). The
group Eil include the spatial metrics discussed above. However, the
HPM typically takes a semi-log form, with the dependent variable
specic way in which the variables enter the model is worth noting
logarithmic transformed, for two reasons. First, housing or land
here. A search of relevant literatures reveals two ways of including
price samples are usually lognormal distributed (Poudyal et al.,
environmental variables in the HPM. On one hand, the rst
2009). Second, researchers usually focus on the changes rather
approach is to directly use the values of landscape metrics. For
than the absolute levels of the dependent variable, the semi-log
example, one can construct a variable indicating a land parcel's
equation form is thus more appropriate. In our case, moreover,
accessibility to urban green spaces using the distance from the land
preliminary data explorations show that the landscape metrics are
parcel to the nearest green space patch, as in the case of Kong, Yin,
also lognormal distributed. Therefore, we use a modied semi-log
L. Xu et al. / Habitat International 56 (2016) 84e95 89

Table 1
Landscape ecological metrics in the study.

Spatial characteristics LEM LEM denition* Notes

Richness Class Area Ratio CAR nj1 aij Ratio between the area of a land use class (urban green space in this case, and the same
(CAR) hereinafter) and the whole landscape area (or the area of the convolution sliding window) (m2)
Accessibility Nearest Distance DIST dnearest Distance from a real estate site to the nearest urban green space patch (m)
Distribution Landscape Division  2 A measurement of the fragmentation level of a land use class in a certain area. Ranging from
Pn aij
Index (LDI) LDI 1  j1 A 0 (Not fragmented at all) to 1 (Perfectly fragmented)
Shape Landscape Shape LSI mine A measurement of the shape conguration of patches, LSI equals the total length of edge (or
Conguration Index (LSI) perimeter) involving the corresponding class, divided by the minimum length of class edge (or
perimeter) possible for a maximally aggregated class, which is achieved when the class is
maximally clumped into a single, compact patch (McGarigal, Cushman, & Ene, 2012).
LSI 1 implies a square patch; as LSI increases, the patch gets more complex in shape.

*Where aij area (m2) of patch ij; dnearest distance to the nearest patch; ni number of patches in the land use class (type) i; A total landscape area (m2); ei total length of
edge (or perimeter) of class i in terms of number of cell surfaces; min ei minimum total length of edge (or perimeter) of class i in terms of number of cell surfaces; includes all
landscape boundary and background edge segments involving class i. In this paper, there is only one possible value for i e the green spaces. The denitions of the metrics are
given by Fragstats(McGarigal, Cushman, and Ene 2012). For detailed description of the indices, refer to the source above.

and Nakagoshi (2007) and Poudyal et al. (2009). The second We do the hypothesis tests in a series of models to nd the
approach, on the other hand, uses dummy variables. Specically, it effective range of spatial characteristics in which the spatial effects
rst designate a few sections across the range of a landscape metric, exist. Taking the DIST variable as an example, we rst set a series of
and then construct dummy variables accordingly, thus convey the cutoff values, ranging from 50 m to 100, 150, ..., 1000 m, and then
spatial pattern information in an indirect way. Examples of this create a 0/1 dummy variable and assign the value for it based on the
approach include Bolitzer and Netusil (2000) and Tyrvainen and cutoff values. For the cutoff value 50 m, for instance, we create a
Miettinen (2000). The rst approach would directly reveal the in- dummy variable DIST 50, which is dened as follows:
uence of the spatial effects on the dependent variable (land price),
but would also require high-quality data supports. The second DIST50 1, if DIST <50 m;
approach, on the contrary, is less effective in revealing the specic
inuence of the spatial effects, but also requires weaker data sup- DIST50 0, Otherwise
port. Therefore, we face a trade-off between data quality and
modeling efciency. As discussed above, both the urban green Then, we use the new dummy variable DIST 50 to t the rst
space geographical data and the land price data used in this study model, denoting HPM (DIST 50). If the regression coefcient of the
could be far from perfect, implying the potential benet of adopting dummy variable is statistically signicant, then we can safely
the second approach. Although this is a compromise we have to conclude that the presence of urban green spaces within 50 m of a
make because of data limitations, we argue that imperfect data, land development site does inuence its value. Similarly, we create
rather than high-quality data, is the normal in most real-world a series of dummy variables with different cutoff values and t a
settings, especially in developing countries such as China. In this group of models accordingly (Table 2). Then we only need to focus
sense, the second approach has its unique merits. on the regression coefcients of the dummy variables (DISTCOV),
It should also be noted that by following the second modeling and identify the range of cutoff values within which the coefcients
approach, the main purpose of this study is not to quantify the of DISTCOV are statistically signicant, thus indicating the effective
monetary value premium brought about by the environmental range of the spatial effects.
amenities (though we try to give some rough estimations later in The criteria for setting the cutoff values is worth noting here. On
the paper). Rather, we focus on the very existence (or not) of the the one hand, for those landscape metrics with physical units (for
spatial effects per se. To this end, we need only to do the following example, DIST, measured in meters), we simply arbitrarily set a
hypothesis test at a given (for example, 5%) signicance level: series of cutoff values such that the entire value range is evenly and
reasonably divided, a method similar to other researchers' (Bolitzer
H0 : bl s0 and H1 : bl 0 & Netusil, 2000). On the other hand, for the standardized metrics

Fig. 3. The spatial pattern (LEM values) of the CAR, LDI and LSI variables.
90 L. Xu et al. / Habitat International 56 (2016) 84e95

Table 2
The group of HPMs for an environmental variable (DIST).

Model no. Model name DIST cutoff Value Regression equation

1 HPM (DIST 50) 50 ln pi b0 bj Sij bk Nik bl DIST50i i
2 HPM (DIST 100) 100 ln pi b0 bj Sij bk Nik bl DIST100i i

n HPM (DIST COVn) COVn ln pi b0 bj Sij bk Nik bl DISTCOVn i i

which don't have an explicit physical meaning, we divide their 4.1. Model group 1: the richness and ecosystem service value of
value ranges such that the sample size within each subinterval is urban green spaces
the same to avoid possible bias induced by radically skewed dis-
tribution of samples among the subintervals. Moreover, in both The rst model group, with the land use area ratio (CAR) of
occasions we make sure there are not too many subintervals that urban green spaces being the environmental variable, examines
unnecessarily complicates the analysis. In sum, the variables, their whether e and if yes, how the richness of urban green spaces in-
descriptive statistics, and expected signs of regression coefcients uences their ecosystem service value as reected in land prices. As
are shown in Table 3. shown in Table 5, the answer to the rst question depends on how
One major drawback of the above described modeling approach, much area is occupied by green spaces in the urban landscape. The
though, is that it eliminates the possibility of constructing a dummy variable's regression coefcient is not statistically signi-
complete model including all spatial-related characteristics. For cant when the cutoff value is small, but becomes signicant (at a 5%
example, if we designate m dummy variables for spatial charac- signicance level) as the cutoff value increases to reach a tipping
teristic 1 and n dummy variables for spatial characteristic 2, then point, when green space patches occupy 2.20% (i.e. exp(3.8073))
we would need m * n equations in a complete model group. As the of the total area, and then basically remains signicant until the
number of spatial characteristics examined increase, it would soon cutoff value reaches a high threshold (between 9.20% and 13.40%
become manifest that it is impractical to include all the spatial green space ratio).
characteristics in the same model. Besides, including all spatial A notable problem, however, is that the regression coefcients
characteristic variables in the same model may not only be (standard beta) for the CAR variable are negative in all models, and
impractical, but also undesirable, as different landscape metrics show no trend between models. This is against the intuitive ex-
deal with different aspects of spatial characteristics. For example, it pected sign of the variable, and is also inconsistent with the results
is easy to nd that the four landscape metrics used in this paper are from other researchers (McConnell & Walls, 2005). We elaborate on
not correlated with each other at all, which is manifest as revealed this issue in the discussions section. Nevertheless, despite the
in the denitions of the landscape metrics per se. Thus, interactive negative regression coefcients, the main result of the model
terms of different landscape metrics hardly make any practical group, i.e. that the existence of urban green spaces would
sense. Therefore, instead of tting a general but very complicated contribute to nearby land value when the former's size ratio in the
model with all the environmental variables, we construct a series of landscape exceeds a certain threshold, still holds.
HPMs, with all possible variables in Sij and Nik in every model, but
only one spatial metric in each model as the Eil variable, such that
we focus on one spatial dimension at a time. Overall, each model 4.2. Model group 2: the accessibility and ecosystem service value of
group would reveal the marginal effective range of the respective urban green spaces
spatial pattern, so that one can directly combine the marginal re-
sults from each model group to reach a comprehensive conclusion. The second model group, with the distance between land
development parcels and the nearest urban green space patch
(DIST) being the environmental variable, examines whether e and
if yes, how the accessibility of urban green spaces inuences their
4. Results
ecosystem service value as reected in land prices. As shown in
Table 6, when a green space patch is within 50 m of a land parcel, its
Results show that, for different models with different environ-
inuence on the land price is statistically insignicant. However,
mental variables, only three independent structural and neigh-
when a green space patch is within the 50e550 m range of distance
borhood variables are statistically signicant (at the 5% signicance
from a land development parcel, its inuence on the land price is
level) to enter all models. These are the approved construction area
statistically signicant in all models. Lastly, when the distance be-
on the land parcel (built_size), the distance to the city center
tween a green space patch and a land development parcel is larger
(dist_city), and the distance to the district center (dist_district).
than 600 m, the former's inuence on the land price fades away
Moreover, the regression coefcients for all the three variables
again as the respective regression coefcients again become sta-
remain quite stable not only within each model group, but also
tistically insignicant.
across different model groups. The coefcients for the environ-
Overall, these results are in line with common sense, except for
mental dummy variable, however, vary dramatically between
the 50-m lower threshold of the spatial effects. We argue that this
models within each group, with some statistically signicant while
lower threshold is very likely an estimation error, and the error
others not (Table 4). The fact means that the way the dummy var-
comes from a special data limitation. As indicated above, we only
iables are constructed does inuence their relevance. Putting
include rst-order urban green spaces. These green space patches
another way, the spatial dimension does matter.3 We discuss the
usually occupy entire urban blocks, and are separated from other
model groups one by one in this section.
land parcels by major urban streets, which, in the specic case of
Beijing, are seldom narrower than 50 m. Thus, in principle, the
To avoid excessive details, we only demonstrate the ranges of R2, regression
number of land transaction sites that are within 50 m of nearby
coefcients (Beta), and T-values in each model group. Detailed information is urban green space parcels should be very small. In fact, there are
available upon request. only 64 such cases in the land transactions database, and even
L. Xu et al. / Habitat International 56 (2016) 84e95 91

Table 3
Denitions, descriptive statistics, and expected signs of independent variables.a

Variable Denition/Unit Mean Std. deviation Expected sign

Sample 1b Sample 2c Sample1 Sample 2

Common variables in all models

Land_size Area of parcel/m2 16499.97 15476.98 26974.71 25771.64
Built_size Approved construction area on parcel/m2 48474.85 47531.69 64747.60 65426.55
DIST_city Distance to city center/m 9455.55 9229.29 4697.87 4571.87 e
DIST_district Distance to district center/m 5559.41 5145.43 2778.54 2553.09 e
DIST_highway Distance to nearest highway entrance/m 751.21 661.73 811.29 671.98 e
DIST_urbanstreet Distance to nearest urban street/m 768.46 792.48 934.30 979.38 e
DIST_busstop Distance to nearest bus stop/m 402.00 380.18 276.43 253.09 e
Dummy variable groups in different model groups
CARk See Table 1. N/A N/A
LDIp - when LDI is too large or too small, otherwise
LSIq Not clear
Dependent variable Land price.
Observations 3659.
Observations 2922.

Table 4
Summary of regression results.

Model group No Observations Environmental Variable R2 Structural Variable(s) entered Neighborhood Variable(s) entered Environmental Variable

Built_size Dist_city Dist_district Std. Beta T Value

Std.Beta T Value Std. Beta T Value Std.Beta T Value

1 2922 CARk High 0.33 0.54 35.19 0.15 9.79 0.06 4.05 0.01 0.54
Low 0.32 0.53 35.04 0.16 10.49 0.07 4.29 0.05 3.26
2 3659 DISTl High 0.35 0.55 40.75 0.17 12.47 0.07 5.01 0.01 0.61
Low 0.34 0.54 40.70 0.17 12.64 0.08 5.47 0.05 3.39
3 2922 LDIp High 0.33 0.54 35.15 0.15 9.72 0.06 4.05 0.04 2.84
Low 0.32 0.53 34.99 0.16 10.38 0.07 4.26 0.00 0.10
4 2922 LSIq High 0.33 0.54 35.18 0.16 10.46 0.07 4.22 0.01 0.83
Low 0.32 0.53 35.10 0.16 10.60 0.07 4.34 0.03 1.83

these 64 cases are possibly produced by mapping errors. Putting inuences their ecosystem service value as reected in land prices.
another way, the entire less than 50 m category makes little sense By denition, given total urban green space area, the larger the LDI
in the specic study context, so is the insignicant regression value is, the more fragmented the green space patches are; there-
coefcient. fore, the LDI is in some sense a comprehensive indicator for the
Like in the previous model group, the DIST variables in this spatial distribution of urban green space in a landscape. As shown
model group show negative regression coefcients, too, still with in Table 7, results show both an upper and a lower threshold in the
no trend between models. Similarly, we discuss possible explana- ln LDI value range, and only the models with LDI cutoff values in
tions in the next section. between yields statistically signicant results in which the positive
regression coefcients indicate a positive inuence on nearby land
values when the degree of division of urban green spaces is within
4.3. Model group 3: the distribution and ecosystem service value of
the range, an instinctive result that is in line with our expectation.
urban green spaces
Other models have insignicant environmental variable co-
efcients, thus yielding no meaningful results. We elaborate on the
The third model group, with the degree of division (LDI) of green
physical meaning of the ln LDI range in the next section.
spaces being the environmental variable, examines whether e and
if yes, how the fragmentation status of urban green spaces

Table 5
Regression results for the class area ratio (CAR) model group.

Sub-model no. Environmental dummy Variable name Ln CAR cutoff Std. Beta Sig.

1 CAR_1 5.452 0.008 0.591

2 CAR_2 4.759 0.010 0.506
3 CAR_3 4.232 0.027 0.081
4 CAR_4 3.807 0.032 0.038
5 CAR_5 3.525 0.027 0.082
6 CAR_6 3.258 0.030 0.049
7 CAR_7 2.977 0.042 0.007
8 CAR_8 2.702 0.050 0.001
9 CAR_9 2.385 0.036 0.018
10 CAR_10 2.006 0.023 0.128

The bold, italics gures indicate signicance levels that are below 0.05.
92 L. Xu et al. / Habitat International 56 (2016) 84e95

4.4. Model group 4: the shape conguration and ecosystem service results are clearly counter-intuitive, as they imply that increased
value of urban green spaces richness and accessibility to urban green spaces would decrease
nearby real property values whenever the spatial effects are
The last model group, with the LSI of green spaces being the effective. We attribute the cause of the problem to data quality
environmental variable, examines whether e and if yes, how the issues. As discussed above, both the land price data and the
shape conguration of urban green spaces inuences their geographical data on urban green spaces may be problematic, and
ecosystem service value as reected in land prices. By denition, thus constitute sources of errors. On the one hand, with regard to
the LSI is an indicator that measures how much a shape is the geographical urban green space data, the dataset may not be
different from a square, with the value of 1 when the shape is a complete due to administrative reasons, and the omission of certain
square, and larger values when the shape is deviated from a second-order green spaces may affect the model estimations. A
square. As shown in Table 8, no model in this group yields a sta- rened geographic data on urban green spaces, therefore, may help
tistically signicant regression coefcient for the environmental eliminate such errors. On the other hand, with regard to the land
variable (LSI), thus giving no meaningful results. We discuss on price data, it should be noted that Beijing's land market during the
possible explanations for these results in the next section. study period was not a totally free-market one, and that the
possibly irrational land prices may result in the strange negative
regression coefcients. The problem, therefore, may disappear in a
5. Analysis and discussions
real free-market context. We admit that these problems are the
major limitations of this study, and they are subject to future in-
Among the three model groups yielding statistically signicant
quiries. Nevertheless, despite the unexpected signs of the regres-
results, on the one hand, the rst and second one (on CAR and DIST,
sion coefcients, the results concerning the effective range of the
respectively) give results with explicit physical meanings (in terms
spatial effects are robust. In sum, green spaces should occupy be-
of green space ratios and distances, respectively), though the re-
tween 2.20% and 13.40% of the total urban landscape area, and
sults are in some cases against the common sense. We discussion
within a 100e550 m range from nearby real estate development
the possible causes to this problem. The model group for LDI, on the
sites, such that the spatial effects are effectively realized.
other hand, does not give results with explicit physical meanings, as
the LDI is a standardized metric that does not have any explicit
physical meaning. However, based on the regression results, we can
5.2. On the degree of fragmentation of urban green spaces: the
interpret the results by quantitatively calculating the range for
effective range and optimal level
urban green spaces degree of fragmentation in which they are
inuential on real estate values, as well as the optimal degree of
The LDI measures the degree of fragmentation of a land use class
fragmentation in which the most inuential effects are realized.
(i.e. urban green spaces) in a landscape, and is given in the form of
Also, we discuss on possible causes for the non-signicant results in
the ratio between green space patches and the landscape area.
the Landscape Shape Index (LSI) model group, and give an expla-
Therefore, to calculate the thresholds and optimal levels of frag-
nation on it.
mentation of urban green spaces as measured by the area ratio
between the patches and the total green space area, one needs
5.1. On the counter-intuitive regression coefcients in the richness additional information regarding the ratio of area occupied by
and accessibility model groups green spaces in the urban landscape. In this paper's particular
context of Beijing, as mentioned earlier, the gure is about 10%
In the regression results of the richness and accessibility model within the study area. We base the following calculations on this
groups, a most notable problem is that the regression coefcients gure.
for the CAR and DIST variables are negative in all models that are As shown in Table 7, the lower and upper thresholds for statis-
statistically signicant, and show no trend between models. These tically signicant regression coefcients for the ln LDI variable

Table 6
Regression results for the Accessibility (DIST) model group.

Sub-model no. Environmental dummy variable name DIST cutoff Std. Beta Sig.

1 DIST_1 50 0.014 0.308

2 DIST_2 100 0.032 0.017
3 DIST_3 150 0.032 0.018
4 DIST_4 200 0.029 0.031
5 DIST_5 250 0.032 0.016
6 DIST_6 300 0.044 0.001
7 DIST_7 350 0.047 0.001
8 DIST_8 400 0.043 0.001
9 DIST_9 450 0.032 0.018
10 DIST_10 500 0.034 0.012
11 DIST_11 550 0.034 0.012
12 DIST_12 600 0.022 0.111
13 DIST_13 650 0.013 0.340
14 DIST_14 700 0.007 0.589
15 DIST_15 750 0.003 0.802
16 DIST_16 800 0.003 0.843
17 DIST_17 850 0.000 0.983
18 DIST_18 900 0.008 0.557
19 DIST_19 950 0.001 0.933
20 DIST_20 1000 0.000 0.992

The bold, italics gures indicate signicance levels that are below 0.05.
L. Xu et al. / Habitat International 56 (2016) 84e95 93

Table 7
Regression results for the landscape division index (LDI) model group.

Sub-model no. Environmental dummy variable name Ln LDI cutoff Std. Beta Sig.

1 LDI_1 0.0278 0.023 0.129

2 LDI_2 0.0118 0.025 0.102
3 LDI_3 0.0064 0.033 0.034
4 LDI_4 0.0036 0.039 0.013
5 LDI_5 0.0020 0.044 0.005
6 LDI_6 0.0010 0.043 0.006
7 LDI_7 0.0006 0.036 0.018
8 LDI_8 0.0003 0.031 0.045
9 LDI_9 0.0001 0.007 0.654
10 LDI_10 0.00003 0.002 0.917

The bold, italics gures indicate signicance levels that are below 0.05.

Table 8
Regression results for the landscape shape index (LSI) model group.

Sub-model no. Environmental dummy variable name Ln LSI cutoff Std. Beta Sig.

1 LSI_1 0.1335 0.007 0.643

2 LSI_2 0.2231 0.013 0.409
3 LSI_3 0.3064 0.002 0.871
4 LSI_4 0.3795 0.015 0.336
5 LSI_5 0.4418 0.017 0.258
6 LSI_6 0.5108 0.007 0.659
7 LSI_7 0.5718 0.000 0.995
8 LSI_8 0.6286 0.000 0.982
9 LSI_9 0.6931 0.007 0.651
10 LSI_10 0.7481 0.023 0.131
11 LSI_11 0.7885 0.026 0.092
12 LSI_12 0.8313 0.021 0.162
13 LSI_13 0.8928 0.021 0.172
14 LSI_14 0.9372 0.024 0.111
15 LSI_15 0.9860 0.007 0.650
16 LSI_16 1.0427 0.009 0.556
17 LSI_17 1.0935 0.006 0.715
18 LSI_18 1.1477 0.020 0.189
19 LSI_19 1.2303 0.028 0.067

are 0.0064 and 0.0003, respectively, and the value of ln LDI every patch occupies more than 3.00% but less than 62.50% of the
when the regression coefcient is at the maximum (i.e. realizing total green space area, and when each patch occupies 20.00% of the
the most ecosystem service value) is 0.0020. Thus: total green space area, the ecosystem service value is optimally
LDILower exp0:0064 0:9936 It should be noted, however, that these gures are only effective
for the Beijing case as they are calculated based on city's land
LDIUpper exp0:0003 0:9997 market data, and also assuming a 10% total green space ratio which
is also specic of Beijing's context. Nevertheless, the analysis and
calculation methods are universally applicable. We thus expect
LDIOptimal exp0:0020 0:9980
these methods be tested, applied, and further developed in other
Without loss of generality, assuming all green space patches in contexts by cohorts in the academic community.
the landscape are evenly divided, and there are n patches in total.
By the denition of LDI: 5.3. An explanation for the non-signicant results in the LSI model
1  LDI n (2) The models with LSI as the environmental variable have yielded
no statistically signicant regression coefcients for the LSI vari-
Let g denote the overall green space ratio in the landscape: able. We attribute these results to the innate ambiguousness in the
very denition of the LSI. As stated earlier, the LSI by denition only
g (3) measures how much a shape is deviated from a square, but this
A does not mean that a monotonously and continuously changing LSI
Insert Equation (3) into Equation (2), and apply g 10%, we can series necessarily implies a continuously changing shape series as
calculate that the lower and upper thresholds for n is between 1.60 well. For example, it is easy to construct a shape series as shown in
and 33.00, respectively, and the optimal value is 5.00. Putting in Fig. 4. The series is actually composed of two alternating sub-series,
terms of area ratios, the ratio each green space patch should occupy with the square series becoming more and more convex, and the
in total green space area is 3.00%, 62.50%, and 20.00% at the lower, half-circle series becoming more and more concave, but the LSI
upper, and optimal levels, respectively. This is to say, in order to values for the composed series monotonously increase. In fact, this
effectively realize the ecosystem service value embedded in urban example is of specic meaning from a landscape ecological
green spaces, the green space patches should be so distributed that perspective, which states that the concave and convex patches in a
94 L. Xu et al. / Habitat International 56 (2016) 84e95

Fig. 4. Two alternating shape series with monotonously increasing LSI values.

landscape have different edge effects, and therefore such two so we develop in this study can be applied in such conditions when
evolving series may lead to opposite ecological effects, such as only imperfect data are available, and they can still yield results that
ecosystem service value (Forman, 1995), a result that would not are meaningful to some extent. This illustrates the universal
otherwise have been revealed by the seemingly monotonously applicability of our modeling and estimation methods. We thus
changing LSI series. expect other researchers apply the method in various contexts so as
Therefore, the LSI alone does not provide enough information to yield more empirical results. On the other hand, however, the
that can reect all necessary shape conguration characteristics of specic magnitude of the spatial effects are indeed an important
a green space patch. Therefore, a model solely based on it hardly aspect of the inquiry. Though the original database we use in the
makes sense, thus naturally the non-signicant results. In contrast, study has little potential of being improved, we do expect that we
indicators such as DIST and LDI convey clear physical meanings analyze the same study area in a different time period, hopefully
(either explicitly or implicitly), thus the denite results. For a better with fully marketized price information and rened geographical
measurement of the shape conguration characteristics of green data of urban green spaces, such that estimates on the magnitude of
space patches, one needs to introduce additional indicators, which the spatial effects can be made, and that comparative studies can be
is beyond the scope of this paper and we leave it for further studies. done. Also, the analysis on the shape conguration characteristics
of urban green spaces yields no results. As discussed above, this
6. Conclusion would require the construction of more effective measurements of
the shape conguration characteristics of urban green spaces. We
The study clearly shows that the spatial pattern of urban green also leave this methodological study for future inquires.
spaces does matter when it comes to the realization of their Further, in practical terms, a direct practical implication of the
ecosystem service value. Though the direction and magnitude of study is that urban green space systems can, and should be spatially
the spatial effects are in some cases unclear, or cannot be deter- optimized such that they realize the most ecosystem service value.
mined in other cases as limited by the quality of data, the existence Such optimization should be carried out in a systematical manner,
of the spatial effects per se is manifest. Specically, the distance which means not only a certain aspects of the spatial characteristics
from a green space patch to a nearby land development parcel of urban green spaces are at concern; rather, all relevant aspects of
determines whether the green space patch's ecosystem service the spatial characteristics should be included. Items to optimize
value can contribute to the land parcel's market value, and green thus include the specic way green spaces and other built envi-
space patches with different sizes and distributional characteristics ronment elements are spatially arranged, the size of the green
may have varying degrees of value-adding effect. Furthermore, an space patches, the way the green space patches are divided, and
optimal level of spatial fragmentation of urban green spaces that also perhaps the shape conguration of the green space patches.
maximizes the value-adding effect also exists. To our knowledge, Given the prevailing urban environment problems across the globe,
this is the rst piece of work that systematically examine the we suggest such optimization task be explicitly included in urban
different aspects of the spatial pattern of urban green spaces and planning codes for all cities, and that the results from a number of
their inuence on urban green spaces' ecosystem service value, empirical research projects may help contribute to the making of a
thus these ndings constitute the main contribution of this study to general quantitative guideline for the spatial planning of green
the academic literature. spaces in the urban environment in a way to optimize their
Moreover, with the additional information of overall green ecosystem service value.
space ratio, quantitative estimations on the conditions on which
the spatial effects exist can be made specically for the Beijing case. Acknowledgments
It is suggested that green spaces should occupy between 2.20% and
13.40% of the urban landscape area, and within a 100e550 m range We would like to thank the Beijing Municipal Administration of
from nearby real estate development sites. Also, green space Land Resources for permission of use of the land transaction re-
patches should be so distributed that every patch occupies more cords data and the Beijing GIS database.
than 3.00% and less than 62.50% of the total green space area to
ensure effective ecosystem service value-adding effect, and that the
effect is optimized when every green space patch occupies 20.00%
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