The study found that out of 68 city centres in Britain, Glasgow was bottom while five cities in southern England came out on top.
When looking at the ‘greenness’ of tree cover, vegetation and the presence of parks, Exeter, Islington, Bristol, Bournemouth and Cambridge all came out highest.
Cities in the previously industrial north of the country ranked the lowest and included Leeds, Liverpool, Sheffield, Middlesbrough and Glasgow right at the bottom.
And cities with lower scores have been found to have higher levels of poor health, economic, education, crime and other deprivation outcomes.
Author of the study and a European microbial ecologist and adjunct Flinders University researcher, Dr Jake Robinson said the new research is significant because it focuses on “city centres where people of diverse backgrounds spend much time at work, recreation and shopping”.
He said: “While people’s lives are enhanced by the greenness of their city, many cities have high tree densities in the suburban areas but not their urban centres.
“Not surprisingly, the urban centres with higher tree and vegetation cover, public green spaces including parks and sports fields, have developed after more focus on urban planning rather than urban sprawl and industrial growth, and now have lower levels of deprivation in general, including in human health metrics.”
Urban centres with a higher population also had lower tree coverage and a lower normalised difference vegetation index.
Dr Paul Brindley, co-author of the study from the University of Sheffield, said disparities in city centre greenness across the UK should be incorporated more into city planning.
“This work could help inform efforts by local authorities and urban planners to monitor greening interventions and boost the greenness of city centres in a more equitable manner,” he said.
New projections suggest that nearly 70 per cent of the world’s population will be living in towns and cities by 2050.
This increase in urbanisatoon is global, which is putting increasing pressure on biodiversity and human health.
This includes a rise in harmful air pollution and other gases and particulate matter, and degrading habitats.
The research concludes: “The need to re-imagine and re-develop our urban city centres due to digital shopping technologies and societal changes provides an important opportunity to explicitly consider the enhancement of urban centre biodiversity.
The study by PLOS One evaluated urban centres with larger populations of more than 100,000 people to create a metric of urban ecosystems and vegetation and human health, social equity and biodiversity.
It was led by Flinders University, University of Sheffield, University of Melbourne and Environmental Protection Authority Victoria researchers.