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Landscapes are important for body and soul
A team of scientists led by Prof. Dr. Tobias Plieninger has now published a study that explores the question of what effects landscapes have on human well-being. "In our research, we can conclude that the nature surrounding them makes people happier and healthier," says Plieninger, who holds a joint professorship at the universities of Göttingen and Kassel.
"In particular, the contributions of landscapes to the mental and physical health of populations have received far too little attention in research on ecosystem services," Plieninger continues. That's why he and an international team of scientists from twelve different universities from Germany, Denmark, Finland and Spain, among others, have conducted a major study to determine the value people place on the landscape that surrounds them. The study is part of the EU research project AGFORWARD (www.agforward.eu).
To do this, the researchers surveyed about 2,000 people in ten European countries about their assessment of landscapes. The people named 40 different categories through which landscapes had a positive effect on their well-being: Tranquility, peacefulness and relaxation were named most frequently by the participants in the study in all areas. Landscapes are also particularly important in the eyes of respondents as gathering places for families, friends, and communities. Nature and the aesthetics of landscapes were also highly valued.
However, the study also notes specific characteristics between the ten different countries in terms of the impact of landscape on human well-being. "Our work clearly shows that there are predefined ideas of well-being that are dependent on cultural and geographical context," explains Dr. Maria Garcia-Martin of the University of Göttingen, who was also involved in the study. For example, accessibility to public infrastructure plays a greater role in the peri-urban, or near-urban, landscapes in Sweden and Switzerland, while the landscape as a place of social contact is of high importance in the southern European study areas.
The study authors conclude that landscapes should be the starting point for planning and management decisions - especially to preserve landscapes as specific places with special relationships between humans and nature. "The diverse relationships of people and nature in rural areas, their fabric and their importance for people's well-being are central to sustainable landscape development and should be identified and named before planning and management decisions are made," says Dr. Mario Torralba of the University of Kassel.
The study, "Perceived contributions of multifunctional landscapes to human wellbeing: Evidence from 13 European sites," was published in the journal People and Nature and is freely available at: besjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/pan3.10067