Photo credit: O. Rendón.

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There have been numerous studies to demonstrate the benefits which we get from nature, for example food, water, protection from floods and pleasing views. How these benefits affect our quality of life and well-being is however less clear.

Nature can have a positive effect on us, such as providing us with food or areas for recreation, but it can also have a negative effect on us, for example by provoking hay fever reactions or providing a home to mosquitoes that may prove a nuisance. These positive or negative effects can occur when humans interact with nature, potentially affecting our well-being. Our well-being can refer to our health, how safe we feel, our happiness and income, among others. Considering the positive and negative effects from nature helps us understand how the lives of different people in different places can be affected to a small or large degree. This study presents a framework to link components of the natural world to human well-being in all aspects of our lives. We use coastal saltmarsh habitat as a case study to apply the framework, highlighting the information we lack about saltmarsh and the how different management decisions could affect human well-being.

We found that positive effects from nature have a large impact on individuals from local to global scales, while negative effects are more likely to occur locally, affecting individuals on site. The proposed framework also helps explain the complex area of the linkages between human well-being and nature. It also is a useful tool to guide environmental decision-making and management decisions from the local to the national level, particularly when involving sectors such as the health and social services. We conclude that this framework provides a practical structure to improve our understanding and management of nature – including the positive and negative effects – on human well-being.