Attractive, climate-adapted and sustainable? Public perception of non-native planting in the designed urban landscape

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Abstract

Throughout Europe climate change has rendered many plant species used in contemporary urban planting design less fit for use in public greenspaces. A growing evidence base exists for the ecological value of introducing non-native species, yet urban policy and practice guidance continues to portray non-native species negatively, focusing on their assumed invasiveness. In this context there is a lack of research focusing on the cultural relevance of non-native species in the urban landscape. To address this gap we surveyed 1411 members of the UK public who walked through designed and semi-natural planting of three levels of visual nativeness: “strongly native”; “intermediate” and “strongly non-native”, whilst completing a site-based questionnaire. Semi-structured, in-depth interviews were then carried out with 34 questionnaire participants. A majority (57.6%) of our respondents would be happy to see more non-native planting in UK public spaces, rising to 75.3% if it were better adapted to a changing climate than existing vegetation. Respondents recognised the three broad levels of nativeness, yet this was not a factor driving perceptions of the attractiveness of the planting. In addition to climate change, we identified four key factors driving acceptance and rejection of non-native planting: aesthetics; locational context; historic factors and inevitability; and perceptions of invasiveness and incompatability with native wildlife. Our research indicates that in the context of a changing climate, focus should be placed on the potentially positive role of non-invasive, climate-adapted, aesthetically pleasing species within urban planting schemes as these could be well-received by the public.

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Hoyle, H., Hitchmough, J., & Jorgensen, A. (2017). Attractive, climate-adapted and sustainable? Public perception of non-native planting in the designed urban landscape. Landscape and Urban Planning, 164, 49–63. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.landurbplan.2017.03.009

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