L.K. Fischer (2021)
Karlshöhe Park in Stuttgart, Germany.

By Kristen Jakstis, Maria Dubovik, Arto Laikari, Kaisa Mustajarvi, Laura Wendling, and Leonie K. Fischer.

Read the full article here.

People and nature have a two-way relationship. For example, nature in cities, like parks, is attractive for people to spend time, meet with friends, exercise, and relax. Such activities can be good for both our minds and bodies. In turn, people also influence nature in cities, for example, through the choices we make when designing green places like parks, selecting plants for our balconies, and mowing the lawns in our gardens. 

In our study, we wanted to learn more about this relationship between people and nature in European cities. We conducted an online survey with the goal of exploring what kinds of plants and water features people like in public greenspaces, what people use them for, and how this may have changed during the COVID-19 pandemic. We also assessed if people’s greenspace use is related to where people live or their personal backgrounds. 

584 people from 15 European countries answered our survey. From their responses, we found that most European respondents liked streams and ponds, and a mix of trees, bushes, and smaller plants like flowers and grasses in greenspaces. We also learned that before the pandemic, the most common activity in greenspaces was walking and running, and people frequently mentioned spending time in greenspaces to relax or calm down, look at nature, and meet with friends. However, these preferences, activities, and reasons for spending time in greenspaces were often different if a person was living in Northern, Central, or Southern Europe. In general, European residents used greenspaces across Europe. However, Southern Europeans visited greenspaces and engaged in outdoor recreational activity less often than Northern Europeans both before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many Southern Europeans who answered our survey also reported having few greenspaces in their neighborhood, and were not able to access greenspaces during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Our insights can help the people responsible for planning, designing, and managing greenspaces make these spaces beneficial for both people and nature.