Erika Y. Chin

Date of Award

Summer 2019

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation



First Advisor

Kirstin Dow


Greenways serve as parks or non-motorized transportation routes for urban residents, but as greenspaces they also have the potential to enhance habitat quality and availability. This dissertation examined two aspects of urban greenways: the motivations for establishing greenways and the structure of vegetative communities found within them. Analysis of greenways plans revealed that the provision of natural resources and societal benefits are not promoted equally. In general, social and recreational functions are prioritized in greenway designs, while environmental benefits and services are expected to be inherently and equally possessed by all greenspaces and greenways. Consequently, specific conservation actions (e.g. habitat management or wildlife conservation) are uncommon in planning guidelines. In addition, despite current interest in greenways’ ecological benefits, there is limited fine scale data available to aid in planning decisions.

To better understand how greenway vegetation are influenced by local site conditions and disturbances, a detailed survey of woody vegetation was conducted on an established greenway system in Raleigh, NC. Overall, forest communities in the 40-year-old greenway are diverse, though species distribution patterns and community structure are highly variable. Higher species richness and diversity are associated with conservation areas and residential zones, while areas with lower exposure to streets contain higher stem densities.

Although anthropogenic disturbances encroach on the entire length of Raleigh’s greenway to some degree, intact forest stands with diverse, native vegetation remain present. The use of greenways in conjunction with planning and management techniques can be used to aid in future conservation efforts. The collection of long-term ecological data can better inform the assessment of the stability of greenway communities, particularly in locations outside of existing conservation areas. In conclusion, the findings of this dissertation indicate that greenways can be used as habitat for native vegetation in cities, but their proximity to natural and anthropogenic disturbances makes the prospect of long-term conservation uncertain.

Included in

Geography Commons