Multiple Benefits of Landscape Transformation: Human Health & Well Being

Published: March 1st, 2020 | , |

Sustainably designed landscapes, especially those that replace hardscaped areas with vegetation, can positively impact human health. The following elements are known to generate public health benefits when they are integrated into the urban landscape: trees, regionally adapted plants, living soils and rainwater harvesting features such as bioswales and raingardens. Collectively these landscape elements directly improve environmental health and indirectly improve human health by performing such services as filtering particulates from the air and reducing carbon dioxide, filtering pollutants from stormwater runoff and in turn improving surface water quality, generating oxygen, and cooling off the ambient temperature (Polonsky et al. 2018; CNT 2010). In short, as Tzoulas, et al. (2007) notes: “The link between ecosystem health and public health is the set of ecosystem services provided by the Green Infrastructure.”

Time spent in urban nature, such as parks or other areas that integrate GI, is correlated with a number of public health benefits, including improved physical health, mental health and well-being, and community related benefits like social cohesion, defined by Hartig et al 2014 as “shared norms and values, the existence of positive and friendly relationships, and feelings of being accepted and belonging”. For example, by making cities more walkable, Wolf et al. (2008) explains that “urban greening” can prompt exercise because “people make more walking trips when they perceive that there are many natural features in their neighborhood. In less green neighborhoods, people judge distances to be greater than they are, perhaps leading to decisions not to walk.” White, et al. 2014, evaluated data from more than 10,000 panelists and found that, “on average, individuals have both lower mental distress and higher well-being when living in urban areas with more green space.” Similarly, Wolf et al. 2008 claims that studies have shown, “views of nature rapidly reduce physiological stress response,” and relatedly, others have demonstrated, “heart rate, blood pressure, and other body function measures return to normal levels more quickly when people view nature after a stressful experience.” De Vries et al. (2003) found that both the quality and quantity of greenery along streets were associated with perceived social cohesion within neighborhoods, with quality being responsible for the strongest association.

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