Urban parks and other green spaces serve a number of important purposes, such as enhancing the physical and emotional well-being of people, protecting ecosystem biodiversity, and providing services like stormwater management and heat reduction. These functions are influenced by how people interact with green spaces, yet it can be not easy to record human activity at a fine enough resolution to guide green space management. Anonymized GPS data from users’ smartphones could assist in overcoming this obstacle.
A recent study shows how the public’s use of parks and other green spaces in metropolitan areas can be tracked using anonymized GPS data from people’s smartphones, which could help guide their management. On December 15, 2022, Alessandro Filazzola of ApexRMS and the University of Toronto, Mississauga, Canada, and associates publish these results in the open-access journal PLOS Computational Biology.
To demonstrate such an approach, Filazzola and colleagues analyzed anonymized smartphone data that captured people’s visits to 53 green spaces in the greater Toronto area in Canada, including parks, trail systems, and areas closed to the public for conservation purposes.
They found that the GPS data did indeed capture insights about people’s use of these green spaces, showing, for instance, that mobile device activity was strongly correlated with data on reservations made by people to access parks. The data also revealed which areas within green spaces had more or less human activity, with established trails being particularly popular. In addition, greater human presence was linked to certain types of land cover, such as rock formations, as well as certain tree species.
These findings highlight the potential for anonymized GPS smartphone data to help inform management of green spaces, especially as cities grow worldwide. Such efforts could optimize the benefits of green spaces for people while also preserving biodiversity.
The researchers note several challenges to this approach, such as some people’s tendency to disconnect from their mobile devices when visiting green spaces and the difficulty of distinguishing between a smartphone located within a green space versus passing in a car just outside the perimeter. Future research could address these issues and refine the methodology.
The authors add: “Access to parks is important for city residents for recreation, connecting to nature, and socialization, but it’s challenging to understand how people use these green spaces. Our study is using anonymized mobility data to help shed light on the relationship between people and nature in parks”. (ANI)
This report is filed by ANI news service. TheNewsMill holds no responsibility for this content.