New paper out: Spatial prioritization for accessibility of urban parks

In our recent paper published in Applied Geography, we combine travel time modeling with spatial conservation prioritization to identify green areas that best serve the recreational use. We consider equitable access between urban dwellers, the need for various types of parks, and the use of various transport modes. The paper puts together approaches from conservation planning and accessibility research to support land-use planning decisions.

Green areas are important for urban residents. But how to prioritize between them? (Image by Angelo Giordano from



Spatial (conservation) prioritization is a way to identify “less” to “more important” places for conservation or other land uses based on multiple criteria. The outputs of the prioritization can be useful for locating optimal places for protection, for instance, or in our case, recreation. One of the major principles in spatial prioritization is complementarity, i.e. the attempt to secure the existence of all species and habitats (or, whatever is used as input data) in the prioritization process.

A spatial prioritization software Zonation, developed at the University of Helsinki, works as follows: It first takes the full study area under examination and checks how widely-distributed different input features are (be it multiple species, for example). It then takes away a small bit of the area; namely, the bit that corresponds the least to the total biodiversity in the area. Such areas would only harbor few species that are generally widely distributed. Zonation repeats these steps, checking the distributions and removing the least valuable areas, until the entire target area is completely ranked. The prioritization process is based on a ‘Robin Hood algorithm’ that always tries to take away from those species that have the most available areas at the corresponding iteration. This principle of complementarity results in high coverage of protected features compared to more traditional hotspot approach.

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