Biodiversity good for mental health, scientists find
May 18,2007 00:00 by Bend_Weekly_News_Sources

Bio­di­ver­sity, an ar­e­a’s rich­ness in dif­fer­ent spe­cies, is good for more than just the en­vi­ron­ment, re­search­ers have found: it ben­e­fits us psy­cho­log­i­cally, at least in city parks and green spaces.

For the world’s bur­geon­ing city pop­u­la­tions, “pub­lic ur­ban green spaces pro­vide one of the few av­enues for di­rect con­tact with the nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment,” the re­search­ers not­ed in a pa­per de­scrib­ing the stu­dy. “Such con­tact has meas­ur­a­ble phys­i­cal and psy­cho­log­i­cal ben­e­fits.”

For in­stance, a 1984 study by Rog­er Ul­rich at Tex­as A&M Uni­ver­si­ty found that hos­pi­tal pa­tients re­cov­ered faster if their hos­pi­tal room win­dows over­looked trees rath­er than brick walls. 

The new study shows that ben­e­fits of this sort “in­c­rease with the spe­cies rich­ness of ur­ban green spaces,” wrote the au­thors, Rich­ard Full­er and col­leagues at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Shef­field, U.K. The find­ings ap­peared on­line May 15 in the re­search jour­nal Bi­ol­o­gy Let­ters.

Full­er’s team stud­ied 15 ur­ban parks and green spaces through­out the U.K., an­a­lyz­ing their bio­di­ver­sity lev­els and ques­tion­ing vis­i­tors. The vis­i­tors were giv­en ques­tion­naires ask­ing wheth­er com­ing there helped them clear their minds, gain per­spec­tive on life, think eas­i­ly about per­son­al mat­ters or feel con­nect­ed to na­ture.

Vis­i­tors not on­ly felt bet­ter in more biodiversity places: they could rough­ly ac­cu­rate­ly gauge the lev­el of bio­di­ver­sity, at least in terms of eas­i­ly vis­i­ble spe­cies—birds, but­ter­flies and plants, the sci­en­tists found. 

The find­ings are important since about half of the world’s peo­ple now live in cit­ies, in­creas­ing­ly iso­lat­ed from na­ture and its ben­e­fits, Full­er and col­leagues wrote. The re­sults “in­di­cate that suc­cess­ful man­age­ment of ur­ban green spaces should em­pha­size bi­o­log­i­cal com­plex­i­ty to en­hance hu­man well-be­ing in ad­di­tion to bio­di­ver­sity con­ser­va­tion,” they con­clud­ed.

Courtesy World-Science