Health impacts of biodiversity and ecosystem services  back to the theme

assessing efficient types of blue and green spaces and their characteristics

Date: 06.03.2017



We are happy to launch the Call for Knowledge to contribute to answer the following question. This Call will end-up on April 18th so please participate now and make it known around you!

"Which types of urban and peri-urban natural spaces (blue and green) and which characteristics (components) of such spaces have a significant impact on human mental health and well-being? "

We will consider both positive and negative impacts, even if the aim of the requester is to promote the creation, design, and management of natural spaces that have a positive effect on health. We also focus here on mental health and well-being and not physical health only.

For more details see the Call for Knowledge attached to this message


Keywords: Coastal, Continental shelf, Cropland, Grassland, Heathland and shrub, Marine inlets and transitional waters, Open ocean, Rivers and lakes, Sparsely vegetated land, Urban, Wetlands, Woodland and forest, Atlantic, Mediterranean, Ecosystem approach, Ecosystem management, Habitat creation, Spatial planning, Benefits, Biodiversity (incl. observation), Cultural service, Direct use value, Ecosystem services, Existence value, Green infrastructure, Human well-being, Indirect use value, Intrinsic value, Land management, Land use change, Landscape, Nature-based solutions, Public health, Rewilding, Stakeholders, Alpine, Continental, Northern, Southern, Mountains, Polar, Conservation of species (in situ), Conservation of habitats, Forest management, Stakeholder engagement processes, Descriptive methods (field, taxonomy) , Experiments, Social science methods (e.g., interviews, statistics), Health, Development, Environmental technology
Last edited: 16.03.2017 14:23 (GMT) - by Barbara LIVOREIL

Member: Marianne Darbi

Date: 21.03.2017 09:43 (GMT)

I suggest checking the 2017 Natural Capital Symposium (20-23 March 2017) in Stanford. They had a session on "Psychological ecosystem services: The mental health benefits of nature
experience" yesterday. For more information and involved experts see here:

Last edited: 21.03.2017 13:26 (GMT) - by Marianne Darbi

Date: 28.03.2017 19:28 (GMT)

In a study we conducted few years ago, we made an effort to link landscape types (CORINE land use data) with disease profiles at a national level ( .

Need to mention that among other factors, spatial heterogeneity, differences in biotic community composition, and drivers of biodiversity change could pose an obstacle if an effort would be made to generalize outputs of any such study; Still, this is actually what makes this task extremely challenging and very interesting.

Member: Marianne Darbi

Date: 31.03.2017 23:19 (GMT)

Dear Antonios,
That sounds an extremely interesting study. Could you please provide the full reference (seems that the link does not work)? Many thanks!

Member: Kalevi Korpela

Date: 29.03.2017 11:47 (GMT)

Here are some publications from our group:
Korpela, K., De Bloom, J., Sianoja, M., Pasanen, T., & Kinnunen, U. (2017). Nature at home and at work: Naturally good? Longitudinal links between window views, indoor plants, outdoor activities and employee well-being. Landscape and Urban Planning, 160, 38–47.
Korpela, K. M. (2013). Perceived restorativeness of urban and natural scenes – photographic illustrations. Journal of Architectural and Planning Research, 30 (1), 23-38.
Hauru, K., Lehvävirta, S., Korpela, K., & Kotze, J. (2012). Closure of view to the urban matrix has positive effects on perceived restorativeness in urban forests in Helsinki, Finland. Landscape & Urban Planning, 107, 361-369.

Nikunen, H. & Korpela, K. (2012). The effects of scene contents and focus of light on perceived restorativeness, fear, and preference in nightscapes. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, 55, 453-468.
Korpela, K., Ylén, M., Tyrväinen, L. & Silvennoinen, H. (2010). Favorite green, waterside and urban environments, restorative experiences and perceived health in Finland. Health Promotion International, 25, 200-209. doi:10.1093/heapro/daq007
Hietanen, J. K., Klemettilä, T., Kettunen, J. E., & Korpela, K. M. (2007). What is a nice smile like that doing in a place like this? Automatic affective responses to environments influence the recognition of facial expressions. Psychological Research, 71, 539-552.
doi: 10.1007/s00426-006-0064-4
and reviews
James, P., Tzoulas, K., Adams, M.D., Barber, A., Box, J., Breuste, J., Elmqvist, T., Frith, M., Gordon, C., Greening, K.L., Handley, J., Haworth, S., Kazmierczak, A.E., Johnston, M., Korpela, K., Moretti, M., Niemelä, J., Pauleit, S., Roe, M.H., Sadler, J.P., Ward Thompson, C. (2009). Towards an integrated understanding of green space in the European built environment. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, 8, 65-75.

doi: 10.1016/j.ufug.2009.02.001

Tzoulas, K., Korpela, K., Venn, S., Yli-Pelkonen, V., Kaźmierzak, A., Niemelä, J., & James, P. (2007). Promoting ecosystem and human health in urban areas using Green Infrastructure: A literature review. Landscape & Urban Planning, 81, 167-178. doi:10.1016/j.landurbplan.2007.02.001
Best, Kalevi Korpela
Professor of Psychology, Univ. of Tampere, Finland

Member: Marianne Darbi

Date: 31.03.2017 23:20 (GMT)

Great list! Thanks, Kalevi.

Date: 05.04.2017 09:22 (GMT)

Dear Kalevi
I went through your paper "at hoem and at work", this is very interesting indeed and in the scope of our call. I have not read thoroughly, but do you have descriptors of the types of natural spaces that some people could see from their windows and datasets that would match this with their answer about psychological status? In several papers comparisons are based on natural vs mixed vs urban.. here we are seeking for details about "naturalness" (which is foudhn in other papers, but I wonder about this one and the details possibly available). Many thanks for your answer. Cheers.

Date: 31.03.2017 12:12 (GMT)

An excellent question! Here are a few publications that address the above question:

1. Types of natural environments that affect mental health and wellbeing:
* Marselle, M., Irvine, K.N., & Warber, S.L. (2013). Walking for well-being: Are group walks in certain types of natural environments better for well-being than group walks in urban environments? International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 10, 5603-5628 (Health Benefits of Nature Special Issue).
* MacKerron, G., & Mourato, S. (2013). Happiness is greater in natural environments. Global Environmental Change, 23, 992e1000.

2. Characteristics of the natural environment (perceived biodiversity and naturalness) relate to wellbeing:
* Marselle, M., Irvine, K.N., Lorenzo-Arribas, A., & Warber, S.L. (2016). Does perceived restorativeness mediate the effects of perceived biodiversity and perceived naturalness on emotional well-being following group walks in nature? Journal of Environmental Psychology, 46, 217-232. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvp.2016.04.008
* Marselle, M., Irvine, K.N., Lorenzo-Arribas, A., & Warber, S.L. (2015). Moving beyond green: Exploring the relationship of emotional well-being, environment type and indicators of environmental quality following group walks. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 12, 106-130 (Health Benefits of Nature Special Issue).
*Carrus, G., Lafortezza, R., Colangelo, G., Dentamaro, I., Scopelliti, M., & Sanesi, G. (2013). Relations between naturalness and perceived restorativeness of different urban green spaces. Psyecology, 4(3), 227e244.
*Carrus, G., Scopelliti, M., Lafortezza, R., Colangelo, G., Ferrini, F., Salbitano, F.,…Sanesi, G. (2015). Go greener, feel better? The positive effects of biodiversity on the well-being of individuals visiting urban and peri-urban green areas. Landscape and Urban Planning, 134, 221e228.
* Cracknell, D., White, M. P., Pahl, S., Nichols, W. J., & Depledge, M. H. (2016). Marine biota and psychological well-being: a preliminary examination of doseeresponse effects in an aquarium setting. Environment and Behavior.
*Jorgensen, A., & Gobster, P. H. (2010). Shades of green: measuring the ecology of urban green space in the context of human health and well-being. Nature and Culture, 5(3), 338e363.
* Dallimer, M., Irvine, K. N., Skinner, A. M. J., Davies, Z. G., Rouquette, J. R., Maltby, L. L.,
et al. (2012). Biodiversity and the feel-good factor: understand associations
between self-reports human well-being and species richness. Bioscience, 62(1),
* van Dillen, S. M. E., de Vries, S., Groenewegen, P. P., & Spreeuwenberg, P. (2012).
Greenspace in urban neighbourhoods and residents' health: adding quality to
quantity. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 66(6), e8. http://

A few reviews on this topic:
Lovell, R., Wheeler, B. W., Higgins, S. L., Irvine, K. N., & Depledge, M. H. (2014).
A systematic review of the health and wellbeing benefits of biodiverse environments.
Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health Part B, Critical Reviews,
17(1), 1e20.
* Wheeler, B. W., Lovell, R., Higgins, S. L., White, M. P., Alcock, I., Osborne, N. J., et al.
(2015). Beyond greenspace: an ecological study of population general health
and indicators of natural environment type and quality. International Journal of Health Geographics, 14(1), 17.

Date: 31.03.2017 12:18 (GMT)

The review may wish to identify what it means by characteristics (components) of natural environments: aesthetics; absence of litter/maintenance; perceived safety; biodiversity; % green, etc.

Would the four components of Attention Restoration Theory by S. Kaplan & R. Kaplan (being away, fascination, coherence, compatibility) be included as components of natural environments? Theoretically, these 4 components of the natural environment are mediators between the type or quality of the physical environment and health/wellbeing outcomes.

Member: Marianne Darbi

Date: 31.03.2017 23:24 (GMT)

Thanks, Melissa, for this very comprehensive list as well as for your conceptual thoughts! This could be a good starting point to determine how health effects can be broken down to different categories/drivers

Date: 05.04.2017 09:24 (GMT)

Hi Melissa. I think the requester is really focused on the "design" and composition of natural spaces (trees, bushes, flowers.. but also smell, aesthetic...). presence of litter impacts aesthetic so this is a very good point. Safety is also very interesting when it is liked to ladnscape (open/closed, there are some studies about this).. so I am adding all this to the search terms / keywords. Cheers

Member: Gill Ainsworth

Date: 07.04.2017 08:59 (GMT)

Hi Barbara,

In 2014, I was part of a team based at the New South Wales Government Office of Environment and Heritage that conducted a systematic quantitative review of published literature (journal articles, book chapters, reports) to identify the motivations, participant traits and experience characteristics among people travelling to natural areas who were seeking psychological or physiological transformation. We produced an annotated bibliography and a published article.

The focus of the study was not directly about the characteristics of nature that promote wellbeing, but many relevant characteristics of nature were identified as part of the experiences that travellers sought/benefitted from. Characteristics like safety, silence, etc. also came up, so it would be well worth scanning the annotated bibliography for a range of terms.

For example, a number of different studies we reviewed examined types of natural areas. I include the citations for those studies below. The full references can be found in our annotated bibliography (Wolf, ID, Ainsworth, G, Alimane, C & Bainbridge T (2015). "Transformative Travel: Concepts and Market Opportunities for Protected Areas – Annotated Bibliography." Office of Environment and Heritage, Sydney). The bibliography is not available online, but I can provide an electronic copy by email.

Rural tourism: (Kastenholz and Lima, 2011; Pesonen and Komppula, 2010; Pesonen, 2012; Sharpley and Jepson, 2015)

Spas/thermal springs: (Boekstein, 2014; Frost, 2004; Gerry and Joukes, 2010; Gustavo and Completo, 2014; Gustavo, 2010; Hadzik et al., 2014; Joppe, 2010; Laing et al., 2010; Mak et al., 2009; Medina-Muñoz and Medina-Muñoz, 2013; Pforr et al., 2014; Tourism Victoria; Voigt, 2008; Williams et al., 1996)

Forests: (Graefe et al., 2000; Hansmann et al., 2007; Iivari and Nenonen, 2011; Williams and Harvey, 2001)

Urban parks: (Deery et al., 2014; Konijnendijk et al., 2013; Völker and Kistemann, 2013)

Suburban natural areas: (Deery et al., 2014; Konijnendijk et al., 2013; Völker and Kistemann, 2013)

Lakes/urban blue: (Konu et al., 2010; Konu et al., 2014; Volker & Kistemann, 2013))

Our article based on this study may also be of interest. It presents a transformative travel framework and transformative market niche model which we apply to sustainable experience development and marketing in parks:

Wolf, ID, Ainsworth, GB & Crowley, J (2017). "Transformative travel as a sustainable market niche for protected areas: a new development, marketing and conservation model." Journal of Sustainable Tourism: 1-24.

Member: Sjerp de Vries

Date: 28.04.2017 08:12 (GMT)

With regard to blue space (water) and mental health, we recently published an article on this in the British Journal of Psychiatry Open, showing that in the Netherlands the amount of nearby blue space was stronger related to mental health than that of green space.
de Vries, S., ten Have, M., van Dorsselaer, S., van Wezep, M., Hermans, T., & de Graaf, R. (2016). Local availability of green and blue space and prevalence of common mental disorders in the Netherlands. British Journal of Psychiatry Open, 2(6), 366-372.

Member: Lynn Dicks

Date: 11.04.2017 10:33 (GMT)

Here is an important systematic map on the effects of nature conservation on human well-being in developing countries. There is an associated literature database that could be searched for peri-urban environments and mental health (although the focus is on natural habitats)

Member: Lynn Dicks

Date: 11.04.2017 10:44 (GMT)

The studies from the above systematic map are searchable in this online data portal:

Date: 18.04.2017 22:21 (GMT)

Evidence on residential green space and mental health from the 'GreenHealth' Research Programme: OPENspace Research Centre studies

Green space typology was found to be a potential factor underlying distinct gender differences in relationships between amount of green space in the neighbourhood and mental health, observed for a sample of disadvantaged urban communities in Scotland.

Specifically, significant differences in the distribution of gardens/allotments and the number and size of green space 'patches' were noted by gender. Tree coverage (%) was found to be positively associated with mental wellbeing (SWEMWBS) for males, but there was no significant association for females.

This research was undertaken at OPENspace Research Centre as part of the Scottish 'GreenHealth' research programme (, and is not yet published (two papers in advanced stage of prep). A recent conference abstract can be provided on request.

The GreenHealth project, led by the James Hutton Institute, was funded by Scottish Government to explore the links between green space and public health and Wellbeing. OPENspace Research Centre led two key elements of the research, both looking at levels of residential green space, stress and mental wellbeing in deprived communities. A household survey across a sample of deprived urban communities in Scotland used two principal, self-reported measures of health – perceived stress and mental wellbeing – and four measures of green space quantity around each participant’s home. A separate, cross-sectional study, used diurnal patterns of salivary cortisol as independent biomarkers of stress. Our survey findings suggest that the amount of green space in the residential environment contributes to health and wellbeing. From our cortisol testing, we found that more green space in the home neighbourhood is associated with lower levels of stress, as shown both by self-reporting and salivary cortisol patterns. The research and publications to date are reported here:

Last edited: 18.04.2017 22:26 (GMT) - by Dr Lynette Robertson

Member: Petr Petrik

Date: 19.04.2017 15:08 (GMT)

In order to study green spaces we need first to understand their pattern. Below, there are some papers on classification selected by my colleague M. Vojík for our review of urban and chateau parks:

Li W, Ouyang Z, Meng X, Wang X (2006) Plant species composition in relation to green cover configuration and function of urban parks in Beijing, China. Ecol Res 21:221–237. doi: 10.1007/s11284-005-0110-5

Lundholm JT, Marlin A (2006) Habitat origins and microhabitat preferences of urban plant species. Urban Ecosyst 9:139–159. doi: 10.1007/s11252-006-8587-4

Nielsen AB, van den Bosch M, Maruthaveeran S, van den Bosch CK (2014) Species richness in urban parks and its drivers: A review of empirical evidence. Urban Ecosyst 17:305–327. doi: 10.1007/s11252-013-0316-1

Sarah P, Zhevelev HM, OZ A (2015) Urban Park Soil and Vegetation: Effects of Natural and Anthropogenic Factors. Pedosphere 25:392–404. doi: 10.1016/S1002-0160(15)30007-2

Kowarik I, Von Der Lippe M, Cierjacks A (2013) Prevalence of alien versus native species of woody plants in Berlin differs between habitats and at different scales. Preslia 85:113–132. doi: 10.1111/ddi.12028)

After this, we can study the relationship between inhabitants and vegetation. Here are some examples below. There are many methodological obstacles. First, we need distinguish between public and private spaces which is strictly defined in urban environment.

Cox DTC, Hudson HL, Shanahan DF, Fuller RA, Gaston KJ (2017) The rarity of direct experiences of nature in an urban population. Landsc Urban Plan 160:79–84. doi: 10.1016/j.landurbplan.2016.12.006

Kümmerling M, Müller N (2012) The relationship between landscape design style and the conservation value of parks: A case study of a historical park in Weimar, Germany. Landsc Urban Plan 107:111–117. doi: 10.1016/j.landurbplan.2012.05.006

Lindemann-Matthies P, Junge X, Matthies D (2010) The influence of plant diversity on people’s perception and aesthetic appreciation of grassland vegetation. Biol Conserv 143:195–202. doi: 10.1016/j.biocon.2009.10.003

Maruthaveeran S (2015) A Socio-Ecological Exploration of Fear of Crime in Urban Green Spaces.
McLain RJ, Hurley PT, Emery MR, Poe MR (2014) Gathering “wild” food in the city: rethinking the role of foraging in urban ecosystem planning and management. Local Environ 19:220–240. doi: 10.1080/13549839.2013.841659

McLain RJ, MacFarland K, Brody L, Hebert J, Hurley P, Poe M, Buttolph LP, Gabriel N, Dzuna M, Emery MR, Charnley S, McLain RJ, MacFarland K, Brody L, Hebert J, Hurley P, Poe M, Buttolph LP, Gabriel N, Dzuna M, Emery MR, Charnley S (2012) Gathering in the city: an annotated bibliography and review of the literature about human-plant interactions in urban ecosystems.

Southon GE, Jorgensen A, Dunnett N, Hoyle H, Evans KL (2017) Biodiverse perennial meadows have aesthetic value and increase residents’ perceptions of site quality in urban green-space. Landsc Urban Plan 158:105–118. doi: 10.1016/j.landurbplan.2016.08.003

Date: 21.04.2017 13:13 (GMT)

EEA information service “Science for Environment Policy” provide a list of papers on the impacts of Environmental noise upon human health E.g. “Does environmental noise lead to depression and anxiety? Noise pollution may make people less likely to exercise”
could be found at:

As env noise is linked to ecosystem health and functioning, could be used as indicator for addressing impact upon human health.

Another study:
Votsi, N. E. P., Mazaris, A. D., Kallimanis, A. S., Drakou, E. G., Pantis, J. D. 2014. Landscape structure and diseases profile: associating land use type composition with disease distribution. International Journal of Environmental Health Research 24, 176-18

Member: Sjerp de Vries

Date: 28.04.2017 08:18 (GMT)

As for grey literature, I have written a report in Dutch on mechanisms/pathways by which contact with nature may benefit health, focusing on stress reduction/attention restoration and mental health, with a research agenda. Freely accessible:

Member: Petr Petrik

Date: 08.11.2017 13:29 (GMT)

Here is a nice example of public health and greeness connection oriented more on physical health, however illustrating that it is really a social issue:

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