Biodiversity & Health and Wellbeing
There is significant evidence that exposure or contact with natural environments has human health and wellbeing benefits. In this research group, we aim to understand the importance of biodiversity on human health and well-being, and how to incorporate biodiversity into the design of public health interventions. We also investigate how to strengthen environmentally protective attitudes and behaviour in people by focusing on their connection to nature, and perceptions and values of the natural environment. Our research is founded upon transdisciplinary collaborations, drawing from disciplines such as conservation, ecology, environmental psychology, epidemiology and public health.
Fresh air and exercise, preferably outdoors in nature, have a positive influence on the health and well-being of people. But is the health-promoting effect in a species-rich mixed forest higher than in a spruce monoculture? In a new pan-European project called “Dr. FOREST,” scientists from the fields of ecology, medicine, biology, forestry and psychology, led by Prof. Dr. Michael Scherer-Lorenzen from the University of Freiburg, are now hoping to find out whether walking through the forest plays a role in how species-rich and diverse it is.
LIFE Adult cohort analysis
Urbanisation has emerged as one of the most important global human health challenges of the 21st century (Irvine et al., 2021). In Europe, preventable, noncommunicable disease accounts for 77% of the total disease burden (WHO, 2017), while urban living has been associated with significantly increased risk for mental disorders (e.g. Gruebner et al., 2017). These diseases are expensive to treat (WHO, 2016), but could be mitigated and even prevented through implementing urban nature-based solutions such as the planting of street trees or protection of natural ecosystems (WHO, 2021). Studies have shown that greater exposure to, or contact with, natural environments, such as parks and forests, has been shown to improve physical and mental health (Marselle et al., 2021; van den Berg et al., 2015).
DAAD Australia-Germany Joint Research (DAAD) – using citizen science to benefit nature conservation and human health
Citizen science is rapidly proliferating around the world, and is now widely used by decision-makers, non-governmental organisations, and researchers (Welvaert & Caley, 2016). Through engaging many people, citizen science programs can create biodiversity data at a scale not previously attainable. People are also empowered to make meaningful scientific contributions, or use the data to improve their lives (den Broeder et al., 2017). For example, the British Trust for Ornithology (Greenwood, 2005) led bird conservation in the United Kingdom, while Stanford Medicine used data from the Our Voice health initiative to achieve healthier lifestyles (Ceccaroni et al., 2021).
Nature exposure as an equitable, global public health intervention tool –Volkswagenstiftung Symposium
Healthy, functioning natural environments are crucial to health and wellbeing. Yet both nature and human health are being threatened by climate change. While exposure to nature could form a powerful public health intervention tool, its large-scale application has been impeded by a weak evidence base. This includes inappropriate study designs, analytical methods and biases in study locations. Our collaborative work therefore aims to (i) understand the specific mechanisms of nature–health linkages with focus on how much (e.g. duration, frequency) and what type of nature exposure is needed to achieve health outcomes (ii) identify methodologies for systematic nature-health studies; (iii) develop guidance for inclusive global nature-health research relevant also to - socioeconomically or culturally - underrepresented populations and (iv) propose strategies to engage with society, practitioners, policy makers and researchers.
Growing urbanization is a threat to both human health (Irvine et al., 2021) and biodiversity loss (McDonald et al., 2019). As global urban cover is projected to increase to 1.9 million km2 with 5.2 billion people expected to live in urban areas by 2030 (McDonald et al., 2019), action is needed to reduce future risks to both people and nature.
While urban nature-based solutions, such as the planting street trees or protecting natural ecosystems, can simultaneously provide human wellbeing and biodiversity benefits (WHO, 2021a), there is strikingly little evidence whether and how such nature-based interventions can reduce global health disparities (van den Berg et al., 2015; WHO, 2021b). To address the global health-inequality gap, nature-based strategies and policies should be inclusive, integrated and applicable across the world. This is of crucial importance as the existing evidence of the health benefits of nature is geographically biased towards temperate, high-income settings (Pett et al., 2016), whilst most of the world’s population live in tropical, low- and middle-income settings (Oh et al., 2021; Nawarth et al., 2021).
- Conference Biodiversity and Health in the face of Climate Change
- Exploring the pathways linking biodiversity to human health and well-being - Volkswagenstiftung Symposium
- Impact of urban and peri-urban blue and greenspaces on human mental health and mental well-being - EKLIPSE Expert Working Group
- Impact of soundscapes in urban parks on human well-being - external PhD Konrad Uebel
- How and where does nature matter for human well-being, and for whom? - external iDiv Flexpool PhD Joel Methorst
- Marselle, M., Stadler, J., Korn, H., Irvine, K.N. & Bonn, A. (Eds.)(2019) Biodiversity and health in the face of climate change. Springer, Cham, Switzerland. doi: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-02318-8 https://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/978-3-030-02318-8.
- Oh, Fielding, Chang, Nghiem, Tan, ... & Fuller, R. A. (2021). Health and wellbeing benefits from nature experiences in tropical settings depend on strength of connection to nature. International journal of environmental research and public health, 18(19), 10149.
- Chang, Cox, Fan, Nghiem, Tan, Oh, ... & Carrasco. (2022). People’s desire to be in nature and how they experience it are partially heritable. PLoS biology, 20(2), e3001500.
- Methorst, Rehdanz, Mueller, Hansjürgens, Bonn, & Böhning-Gaese. (2021). The importance of species diversity for human well-being in Europe. Ecological Economics, 181, 106917.
- Methorst, Bonn, Marselle, Böhning-Gaese, & Rehdanz. (2021). Species richness is positively related to mental health–a study for Germany. Landscape and Urban Planning, 211, 104084.
- Uebel, Marselle, Dean, Rhodes, & Bonn. (2021). Urban green space soundscapes and their perceived restorativeness. People and Nature, 3(3), 756-769.
- Marselle, Hartig, Cox, De Bell, Knapp, Lindley, ... & Bonn, A. (2021). Pathways linking biodiversity to human health: A conceptual framework. Environment International, 150, 106420.
- Korn, H., Stadler, J. & Bonn, A. (2019) Global Developments: Policy support for linking biodiversity, health and climate change. Biodiversity and health in the face of climate change (eds M. Marselle, J. Stadler, H. Korn, K.N. Irvine & A. Bonn), pp. 315-328. Springer, Cham, Switzerland.
- Marselle, M., Stadler, J., Korn, H., Irvine, K.N. & Bonn, A. (2019) Biodiversity and health in the face of climate change: Challenges, opportunities and evidence gaps. In: M. Marselle, J. Stadler, H. Korn, K.N. Irvine & A. Bonn (Eds.) Biodiversity and health in the face of climate change. Springer, Cham.
- Marselle M.R., Stadler, J., Korn, H., & Bonn, A. (Eds.) (2018): Proceedings of the European Conference “Biodiversity and Health in the Face of Climate Change - Challenges, Opportunities and Evidence Gaps”. BfN-Skripten 509. Federal Agency of Conservation, Germany, Bonn. Available from