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Ever greener cities: The spread of urban agriculture and urban greening (WILSON_UENV17EE)

Project description

Urban agriculture and urban greening are innovative ways of integrating city dwellers with ecosystem services.

Urban agriculture means growing and distributing food locally in cities (e.g., the UK's City Farm network). Urban greening means landscaping and forestry projects in cities to build relationships between city dwellers and nature (e.g., New York's High Line).

This project will investigate the diffusion of urban agriculture and urban greening through cities, and the impact this has on urban ecosystem services. Relevant ecosystem services include recreation, air quality, and moderation of temperature extremes.

Aims & research questions

Diffusion is the process by which innovations spread. Diffusion has important spatial characteristics. The aim of this project is to analyse the spatial diffusion of urban agriculture and urban greening:

Where did these innovations begin? How fast have they spread? How can this be measured? Is their diffusion dependent on planning rules, local policy, community mobilisation, political leadership, or something else? What impacts has their diffusion had on ecosystem services in cities?


Specific research activities include:

(1) compiling time series and geospatial data on the spread of urban agriculture and urban greening

(2) mapping spatial diffusion and identifying spatial contagion effects

(3) analysing socioeconomic, community and policy variables explaining diffusion

(4) analysing impacts of spatial diffusion on urban ecosystem services.

The adopters of innovations such as urban agriculture and urban greening are cities and their constituent administrative bodies and communities. Cities are therefore the units of analysis. However, there is considerable scope for the successful applicant to choose where to collect and analyse data (e.g., UK, EU, global).


The successful applicant will be a core part of a larger project team working on disruptive low carbon innovations. They will be integrated into the Tyndall Centre (, a world-leading inter-disciplinary research institute on the causes, impacts and responses to climate change. They will also have available comprehensive skills and employment training through the EnvEast doctoral training programme.

Person specification

Applicants should have an interest and capabilities in spatial analysis and/or environmental innovations.


This project has been shortlisted for funding by the EnvEast NERC Doctoral Training Partnership, comprising the Universities of East Anglia, Essex and Kent, with twenty other research partners.

Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed on 14/15 February 2017.

Successful candidates who meet RCUK’s eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship. In most cases, UK and EU nationals who have been resident in the UK for 3 years are eligible for a full award. In 2016/17 the stipend was £14,296.

For further information, please visit


  1. Aerts et al. (2016) Potential Ecosystem Services of Urban Agriculture. Preprint.
  2. Albert et al. inc. Lovett (2016). Applying ecosystem services indicators in landscape planning and management: The ES-in-Planning framework. Ecological Indicators 61:100-113.
  3. Davidson et al. (2014). Modelling photovoltaic diffusion: an analysis of geospatial datasets. Environmental Research Letters 9: 074009.
  4. Grubler & Wilson (2014) Energy Technology Innovation. Cambridge University Press.
  5. Locke & Grove (2016) Doing the Hard Work Where it’s Easiest? Examining the Relationships Between Urban Greening Programs and Social and Ecological Characteristics. Applied Spatial Analysis 9(77)
  • Start date 1 October 2017
  • Programme PhD
  • Mode of Study full time
  • Studentship Length 3.5 years
Entry requirements
  • Minimum Entry Standard 2:1 Honours degree