Rapid urbanization and spontaneous economic development has brought about profound changes in urban landscapes throughout the world. The task of managing transforming urban landscapes, particularly urban green spaces, so as to provide sufficient natural amenity for increasing urban populations, is one of the critical challenges facing policy makers. However, little empirical evidence exists about the evolving path of urban green spaces along with economic development and urbanization. This study attempts to fill in this knowledge gap through an econometric analysis of panel data across 285 Chinese cities during a period of rapid urbanization and economic growth (2001-2010). The results point to the existence of an N-shaped environmental Kuznets curve (EKC) for an important aspect of environmental quality: urban green spaces. Urban green space coverage increases at the initial stage of economic development, and then it starts to decrease as GDP per capita exceeds RMB50,855 and then increases again at a high GDP per capita level (RMB107,558). Large elasticity (>1) is expected as GDP per capita grows to a higher level (beyond RMB128,095). By the end of 2010, 30% of Chinese cities are still located on the downward-sloping path and only four cities have attained elasticities greater than one. The findings present a challenging and pressing call for policy makers to effectively manage the tradeoffs between continuous economic development and better natural amenities.
Scopus Subject Areas
- Soil Science
- Natural amenity
- Transformation of natural landscape
- Urban green space