|M.Sc Student||Tzunz Maya|
|Subject||Relationships Between People and Biodiversity in Public|
Gardens: A Case Study in Netanya
|Department||Department of Architecture and Town Planning||Supervisors||Assistant Professor Assaf Shwartz|
|Professor Emeritus Amnon Frenkel|
|Full Thesis text|
Urbanization directly contributes to the lasting biodiversity crisis by destruction of habitats and degradation of natural ecosystems. But as it increasingly separates people from nature it also contributes to the crisis indirectly as well. This is profoundly concerning both since interaction with nature leads to a variety of health and wellbeing benefits, and because this estrangement can undermine people’s action and public support for conservation goals. Conserving biodiversity in cities was therefore proposed as a win-win solution to jointly achieve ecological and social objectives. Yet to date knowledge about the role that biodiversity plays in providing wellbeing benefits is scarce, inconsistent and biased toward Anglo-Saxon cultures.
Here, in this multidisciplinary project, we explored how urban biodiversity relates to nature related wellbeing benefits of city dwellers visiting public gardens in the city of Netanya. We sampled communities of birds, butterflies and plants in 24 public gardens and conducted 600 semi-structured interviews (25 per garden) using close-ended questionnaires to measure: (1) self-reported nature related psychological wellbeing; (2) relatedness to nature, based on a scale developed to create an image of the affective, cognitive, and experiential aspects of individuals' connection to nature; (3) perceived species richness, i.e. the number of species an individual estimates to have around him; (4) preferences towards increased biodiversity; and (5) species identification skills as determined by respondents ability to identify and name common species. Linear models were used to investigate the relationships between these measures, while accounting for demographic variables.
Our results revealed that many of the relationships are mediated by respondents’ level of relatedness to nature. While the majority of respondents expressed preference for increasing species diversity in the gardens, they significantly underestimated existing richness. This preference was positively associated with nature relatedness, and so was the accuracy of richness perceptions. Nature related respondents also demonstrated a positive relation of perceived richness to their wellbeing measures. These results suggest nature related people indeed experience nature and benefit from it. To an extent, they demonstrate results supporting urban conservation as a win-win solution. The distinction between nature related and non-nature related participants demonstrates that the relationship between biodiversity and nature related wellbeing is not as straightforward as commonly argued. The experience of urban nature is not homogeneous for all city dwellers, indicating that one size does not fit all. Ongoing separation between people and nature may account for the fact that many people today do not perceive nor benefit from the interaction with complex (i.e. biodiverse) nature. Thus, enhancing biodiversity in cities might not suffice to achieve social objectives for the general population. Aligning the agendas of nature conservation and public health calls for a collaboration of policy makers, planners, ecologists, landscape architects, educators and designers, to work together and wisely enhance positive interactions between city dwellers and urban biodiversity.