A Tristram’s Starling on a picnic table at Ein Gedi Park. This interaction with wildlife is one of many interactions visitors may have at a park in Israel.
Photo credit: Tyler Hallman.

By Whitney Fleming and Assaf Shwartz.

Read the full paper here.

As more and more people are living in cities, there is an increasing loss of interaction with nature over time. Urban green spaces are some of the most prominent sites where individuals can access and interact with nature in cities and urban areas. It is unclear how different types of green spaces, such as a highly managed garden or a wilder nature park, relate to the interactions people have with nature and subsequently with human wellbeing. Greater knowledge of these connections can aid in the design of green spaces that can increase human wellbeing.

We conducted a visitor survey in an urban nature site in Israel, which consists of both a garden and protected nature area dominated by natural Mediterranean vegetation. We observed how visitors interacted with nature at the site, and how the interactions differed between the protected nature area and the garden. Both the frequency of interactions (how often individuals interacted with nature throughout their visit) and number of total interactions (the number of distinct types of interaction) were measured. We also investigated the extent to which these interactions associated with an individual’s feelings toward nature and their wellbeing.

We found that visitors who visited the protected nature area were more likely to interact with nature than those who only visited the garden. Those that reported feelings of a stronger connection to nature were also more likely to interact with nature.  Additionally, whether a person’s perception of whether the site functioned more similarly to an urban park or a protected nature area was also related to their interactions. Those that saw the site more like a nature area interacted more.

Nature interactions were also associated with measures of wellbeing, but varied depending on wellbeing measures. Interactions with nature, and their benefits, are not equal based on both actual opportunity for interaction and perceptions of green spaces. More wild nature that individuals also perceive as wilder may allow for greater interaction. Creating opportunities for greater interaction can promote human wellbeing associated with interactions.