Public Release: 

There's much more to a walk in the park

University of Sheffield

Researchers at the University of Sheffield have found that parks rich in species are not only beneficial for the environment but also for people's general well-being. They have shown that the psychological benefits gained by visiting urban green spaces increase with the levels of biodiversity.

The world's human population is becoming concentrated into cities, increasingly isolating people from nature. Urban parks, therefore, form the arena for many people's daily contact with nature. These 'green' environments have a number of quality of life benefits, from reductions in crime rates to improving general health. However, little is known about the importance of the 'quality' of these green spaces for benefits to a person's well-being.

Dr Richard Fuller and colleagues from the University's Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, and De Montfort University in Leicester, have been able to show that biologically complex surroundings appear to enhance a person's well-being more than those spaces less rich in species.

The researchers were also able to demonstrate that green space users can accurately assess how many different kinds of species live in urban parks, particularly when looking at plants. Their results indicate that successful management of urban green spaces should emphasise biological complexity to enhance human wellbeing, in addition to biodiversity conservation.

Dr Richard Fuller said: "Our research shows that maintaining biodiversity levels is important in our increasingly urbanised world, not only for conservation, but also to enhance the quality of life for city residents.

"The quality of green spaces, therefore, needs to be considered to ensure that it serves the multiple purposes of enhancing biodiversity, providing ecosystem services, creating opportunities for contact with nature and enhancing psychological well-being."

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Notes for editors:

The research has been published in Biology Letters.

For further information please contact: Lindsey Bird, Media Relations Officer on 0114 2225338 or email l.bird@shef.ac.uk

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