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JEL Classification:

Q53, I10, I18


In Italy, 23 percent of the 7,903 municipalities include protected areas, while 6.4 percent (which we define as park municipalities) national parks. We investigate the relationship between park areas and quality of air and find that park municipalities experienced far lower levels of air pollution in the last three years, the gross difference ranging from 25 to 30 percent lower levels of particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5) and three times lower levels of nitrogen dioxide. In our econometric analysis we find that part (but not all) of this difference depends on the lower population density and manufacturing activity in municipalities with national parks. We as well show that park municipalities have progressively reduced particulate matter over the last three years and that parks have a “green lung” function since, in non-park municipalities, air pollution grows in the distance from national parks. Based on our average of estimated parameters of the impact of the main air pollutants on mortality in the literature we calculate that living in park municipalities reduces mortality rates by around 10 percent.


natural parks; natural capital; environmental health; pollution; air quality; Copernicus