Green spaces in residential communities are important yet understudied features of the urban ecological system. While large urban parks and remnant wildlands in urban areas tend to receive public attention from conservation and management perspectives, less is known about the importance of spatial and ecological characteristics of the community-scale green space. This study investigates natural elements in four planned communities in the Phoenix metropolitan area, Arizona; two of which represent conventional types of neighborhoods and two which exemplify community development type with a proclaimed vision of sustainability. These distinct types of communities, which illustrate variations in age, location, open space type, and a cross-section of housing density, are compared with regard to landscape connectivity as a means of gauging the ecological condition for community sustainability. Using Geographical Information Systems and landscape connectivity indices, a community’s green space features were examined including size, physical connectedness, and ecological potential. Furthermore, a questionnaire survey was designed and implemented to examine the perceptional differences between the two types of community residents. The findings demonstrate that the green spaces in conventional communities are more physically connected than their counterparts, but the naturalness and ecological qualities manifested in the amount of the land that may serve as potential urban desert habitats were higher in the sustainable communities. The results of the survey indicated that the respondents inhabiting sustainable communities possess a higher level of satisfaction than the people in conventional types of communities. This is due mainly to the amount of easy access to, and the perceived ecological values of the green spaces in their neighborhoods and surrounding areas. The study concludes that careful community design with ecological consideration can help create sustainable communities which can benefit both site-scale ecosystems and perceived human well-being.
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