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How does nature affect human health in urban areas?

In a new study from Lancaster University, researchers are working to gain a better understanding of how the health and well-being of people are affected by the quality of their local urban parks, gardens, rivers, and canals. A growing collection of research has recently highlighted the health benefits of green spaces, especially as people turned to nature to help cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The experts report that despite the fact that most people live in urban areas, relatively little is known about how the quality of these urban ecosystems influence human health. 

The Quality of Urban Environments with Nature-Connectedness and Health (QUENCH) network will study urban nature, including soils, pollution levels, size and biodiversity.

By learning more about the connection we feel to nature, and the effects to human health and well-being, the project could be used to inform the future planning and management of urban green spaces.

“Our experiences through the pandemic have highlighted the importance of connecting with nature. Lots of people sought out and visited natural environments, like parks and woodland, near where they lived, and felt better for doing so. There’s lots of good science too that demonstrates the health and wellbeing benefits of connecting with nature,” said Professor Jessica Davies, principal investigator on the QUENCH project.

“However, we need to know more about how the health of the ecosystems themselves matters for our health and wellbeing. Towns and cities are the fastest growing habitat on Earth, and urbanisation has huge effects on the spatial layout of ecosystems, the species that reside in them, and the local climate and pollutants they experience.” 

“We need to understand how all these human-influenced conditions affect ecosystem health, and what, in turn, are the consequences for how we experience those environments and nature.”

“Given that urban areas are also often where greater levels of ill-health can occur it is important to find out how green and blue urban spaces can be better used to tackle health inequalities and create fairer societies,” said Dr. Mark Green from the University of Liverpool

The QUENCH network is funded through the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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