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Humans have long benefited from the bounty of nature. But the natural world is not only an essential source of food, water and raw materials, it can contribute to people’s overall well-being through many intangible influences. New research shows that there are far more important connections between humans and nature than meets the eye. You might think that.

After reviewing hundreds of scientific papers on ‘cultural ecosystem services’ or non-material benefits of nature, researchers conclude that human interactions with nature can have positive or negative effects on well-being227. identified a unique pathway for -Reviewed journal Science Advances.

This paper is believed to be the first of its kind, providing a comprehensive framework for understanding and quantifying the ways in which humans and nature are intricately connected. And the findings could have important real-world implications, said Lam Thi Mai Huynh, lead author of the paper and a doctoral candidate at the University of Tokyo.

“In the modernized world, people tend to disconnect from nature,” she said. “For ecosystem management, the best, most sustainable solution is to connect people to nature and enlist local people to help maintain and manage ecosystem services.”

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For Huynh, this ambitious study, a venture that even her supervisor initially thought impossible, was driven by a desire to better understand the complex processes behind nature’s intangible influences. Was born. affect well-being. However, one of the main challenges, the review notes, is that much of the existing scientific literature on cultural ecosystem services is “highly fragmented.”

“You see all kinds of people [the intangible benefits of nature] Co-author of the paper, Associate Professor Alexandros Gasparatos of the University of Tokyo Institute for Future Initiatives, said: While it’s important to do diverse research, “it makes it a little bit harder to bring it all together,” he said.

But the new study, a systematic review of nearly 300 peer-reviewed scientific papers, creates an “excellent knowledge base,” Gasparatos said.

“The key to doing this exercise is understanding the connections,” he added. “We name phenomena.”

This review examines the relationship between individual aspects of human well-being (particularly mental and physical health, connectedness and belonging, and spirituality) and cultural ecosystem services such as recreation and tourism, aesthetic values, and social relationships. We are analyzing hundreds of possible links between Researchers have gone a step further and identified more than a dozen different underlying mechanisms by which human interactions with nature affect health.

Researchers found the highest positive contribution to mental and physical health. Recreation, tourism and aesthetic values ​​appeared to have the greatest impact on human health, according to the paper, either through ‘regenerative’ mechanisms or through the restorative effects of being in nature, such as stress relief. Meanwhile, the greatest negative impacts are related to mental health through “destructive” mechanisms, or direct damages associated with the degradation or loss of cultural ecosystem services, the researchers write.

“There’s actually more than one pathway,” says Gasparatos, and the effect isn’t always positive. “You can’t get anything by going to the forest.”

For example, a well-designed park is not only a place for recreation and leisure, but also a place to connect with others. You can also admire towering trees, lush greenery, birds and other wildlife. On the other hand, poorly maintained natural spaces can lead to ugly or visually dangerous landscapes that make you feel uncomfortable or terrified of being there.

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According to Huynh, the paper provides a kind of roadmap to help people, especially decision makers, not only have various intangible benefits of interacting with nature, but also how they can try to achieve them. It helps to understand that there are

“Understanding the underlying processes can help us design better interventions for ecosystem management,” she said. In addition to potentially eliminating , “we can help improve nature’s contribution to human health.”

The study was widely praised by several outside experts not involved in the study.

“It’s been a long time since there’s been a study that sheds a little more light on some of these connections,” says Cornell University environmental anthropologist Keith Tydball. But this paper is a big step in sorting out what used to be quite confusing.”

Ann Gerry, Chief Strategy Officer and Chief Scientist for the Natural Capital Project at Stanford University, agrees. “They’ve done a really great job of putting together a very diverse literature,” she said. This has been a challenge among researchers, she noted. Better results for both man and nature. ”

For example, this research could have implications for the role nature potentially plays in human health. “What makes this so helpful is that these pathways identified in this paper allow us to continue to advocate that doctors and clinicians can actually prescribe outdoor time, outdoor recreation, and even outdoor spaces.” to be like,” said Tidbor.

In one scenario, elements of this work could eventually be included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, said Elizabeth Haas, chair of the American Psychiatric Association’s Committee on Climate Change and Mental Health. says.

“By this, if you promote this kind of interaction with nature, you see this kind of benefit, and then you have a policy of prescribing or really depriving someone of this kind of nature experience.” We can say that destroying these natural landscapes will harm their mental health,” she said.

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However, the review has limitations, and some experts caution against overinterpreting or emphasizing the results.

One potential problem is that the existing studies included in the review focus too much on individuals rather than groups.

Kevin Summers, Senior Research Ecologist, Environmental Protection Research and Development Agency, said: agency.

“Often, what appears to be a very simple, straightforward decision can have unintended consequences,” Summers added.

Other research gaps also need to be taken into account, Gerry said. However, that doesn’t mean those other relationships might not be important.

“We should be careful to oversimplify the results and think that the lack of documentation of the relationship in this paper means that something is not important,” she said. It could mean that “it hasn’t been studied and we haven’t found a way to quantify it into the scientific literature and exclude it from our tacit understanding.”

The researchers wrote in their paper that future work would “explore in detail how these pathways and mechanisms manifest themselves in poorly studied ecosystems, and explore their differentiated impacts on various stakeholders.” need to be understood,” the paper said.

On the other hand, however, the discovery serves as an important reminder of nature’s need.

“It justifies thinking like, ‘Nature has all these benefits, so let’s invest in it,'” Gasparatos said.

With such strong positive benefits related to creativity, belonging, rebirth, etc., “it is easy to feel from this paper that the constitutional right to the pursuit of happiness requires the state to protect natural space.” You can do that,” added Haase.

At a time when many people are becoming more isolated and distanced from ‘our ecological selves’, efforts to bring humans and nature together are not only interesting from a scientific, philosophical or ethical point of view, but also ‘here also has implications for human security,” said Tidball. It’s important. And if steps are not taken to reconnect people with nature, the consequences could be disastrous.

“If we continue on our path as a species with ecological amnesia, we will find ourselves out of habitat and time and therefore out of luck,” he said. Told.

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