What’s Going On Here?
If we didn’t already have enough reasons to thank nature, a recent study has found that urban parks with more trees may provide better protection against human diseases than those without. We’re giving you another meaning to all those lockdown walks you’ve been on.
What Does This Mean?
It’s easy to overlook what we can’t see. In this case, it’s the 100’s of millions of microscopic organisms floating around in the air surrounding us that are only just starting to generate considerable interest within the scientific community.
The researchers of this new study analysed the different types of these tiny life forms in different areas of urban parks in South Australia. They revealed that air in wooded areas was filled with a more diverse array of microorganisms than that of nearby maintained grassy sports fields. What’s more, airs of these forested areas also contained fewer microbes that have the potential to cause human diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease and heart issues.
This could tell us that trees provide us with yet another important service to add to the ever-growing list – filtering our air from pathogens. By protecting our cities’ trees, we’re also protecting ourselves!
Why Should We Care?
We’re starting to get a clearer picture of how important aerial microbial diversity is in urban areas, and this study adds to the growing evidence that human health can benefit from it too. People who are able to access more tree-laden green spaces could also see stronger immunity, better gut health, and reduced effects of anxiety, depression and stress.
Here at Curious.Earth, we understand that as well as fighting for a healthy planet, we should be striving for healthy minds and bodies too. We’re happy to be celebrating Mental Health Awareness Week with this year’s theme being focused on nature, however, if this pandemic has shown us anything it’s that not everyone has equal access to it . A recent report by the Mental Health Foundation found that:
Whilst 70% UK adults say that being close to nature improves their mood, 11% indicated that they found it fairly or very difficult to access it when they wanted.
Though more work is needed to be able to generalise these trends across a range of different urban areas, these findings further support the call to make our cities greener and make nature more accessible. If we can engage Governments, local councils and other policy-makers in transforming our cities into green oases, we’ll see a win-win for enhancing both human well-being and the biodiversity we all rely on.
🤸🏻♀️ A 2019 study concluded that at least 120 minutes a week of recreational nature contact was associated with good health or well-being. So, go for a walk, skip, hop, skate, whatever your preferable means of moving through your local park!
🥕 Get out gardening, plant some vegetables, repot your 100s of indoor plant babies – there’s growing evidence that bacteria in the soil can trigger the release of serotonin (your feel-good hormone) when you’re digging around in it.
🌳 Take part in a local permaculture or tree planting project to make a difference in your community.
📖 Another inspiring book to add to your list: Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness – by Qing Li