A richness of species is ‘critical to human wellbeing’

23 Juni 2023

Photo: Pixabay/FrankWinkler

Rich biodiversity benefits not only the species that inhabit it but us as well. So say scientists behind research which has shown that well-functioning ecosystems are critical to human health and wellbeing.

They reached this conclusion after analysing the effects of species’ traits on people’s physical, emotional, cognitive, social and spiritual weelbeing based on their responses. Most species and their various traits are beneficial to human wellbeing with different traits possibly having different beneficial impacts, the experts note based on their findings.

“For example, the colours of brambles (black, pink, red) are linked to multiple positive physical, emotional and social wellbeing types, but their prickly texture generated negative emotional wellbeing,” they explain. The many traits of species can elicit a great number of wellbeing responses from people, proving that people relate to biodiversity in complex ways, the scientists add.

“While we know that spending time in natural environments can improve our health and wellbeing, we still need to know more about which species, or traits of species (such as colours, sounds, smells, textures and behaviours), deliver these benefits and how people’s relationships with biodiversity are both contextually and culturally specific. Understanding how people experience biodiversity is therefore key to successfully managing biodiversity to facilitate human wellbeing,” explains Prof Zoe Davies, a biodiversity conservationist at Kent’s Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology, who led the research.

The research adds to the already robust evidence base that by protecting biodiversity we are protecting ourselves, its authors say.

“By starting to comprehend how people experience biodiversity, we can begin to manage our natural environments for both biodiversity conservation and human health. Even small improvements in wellbeing at an individual level could scale up to substantial healthcare cost savings across an entire country,” Jessica Fisher, another author of the study.

“Our approach can be used to create better-tailored public health interventions or architectural/landscape designs by, for example, maximising the likelihood of people having interactions with certain species and their traits. Critically, as each additional species in an ecological community supports additional traits, maintaining or enhancing biodiversity will be key to delivering human wellbeing,” Fisher says.

Prof. Martin Dallimer, a researcher from the School of Earth and Environment at the University of Leeds, concurs: “How people respond to biodiversity is hugely varied and if we want people’s wellbeing to benefit from spending time in nature, then it is essential to make sure we are maintaining and restoring high-quality biodiverse spaces for wildlife and for people.”

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