Seven Hills Bushland Reserve – Brisbane
Photo by Konrad Uebel

By Konrad Uebel, Jonathan Rhodes, Kerrie Wilson, and Angela Dean.

This Plain Language Summary is published ahead of the article discussed; check back soon for a link to the full paper.

With a majority of the world’s population living in cities, urban parks have become a key means for people to experience nature. Pleasant experiences of bird sounds have been shown to promote mental well-being by offering psychological restoration. Conversely, unpleasant experiences of traffic noise, also a common occurrence in urban parks, can diminish these benefits. 

To understand how these experiences vary amongst people and where they live in cities, we undertook a national survey in Australia.  Our results indicated that people who were more connected to nature, used parks more frequently, and valued parks for reasons such as exercising, socialising or to hear nature, were more likely to have pleasant experiences of bird calls in parks. Conversely, we found that using parks less frequently, renting a home and living further away from parks were factors likely to indicate having unpleasant experiences of traffic noise within parks. Interestingly, people reporting a stronger connection to nature were more likely to be annoyed by traffic noise, whereas people valuing parks as a place to socialise were less likely, suggesting key differences in how people how people notice and are affected by surrounding traffic.

These results highlight a potential unequal distribution of experiencing beneficial park soundscapes across society which can help inform park management strategies, although, importantly, further investigation is needed to understand why these results have occurred.