Seeing the trees

Cox, D.T.C., Bennie, J., Casalegno, S., Hudson, H.L., Anderson, K. & Gaston, K.J. 2019 Skewed contributions of individual trees to indirect nature experiences. Landscape and Urban Planning 185, 28-34.

Exposure to nature is associated with a broad range of benefits to human health. Whilst there has been exploration of how these experiences vary amongst people, the converse – how different individual organisms contribute to human nature experiences – has largely been overlooked. The most common way that people experience nature occurs indirectly, when they are in a room with a natural view. Here, we estimate variation in how individual trees provide indirect nature experiences in an urban human population. As a proxy for its contribution towards indirect nature experiences, within an extended urban area in southern England, UK (n=612,920) we calculated the number of buildings with line of sight to each tree. We then modelled each tree’s contribution towards these experiences against potential predictors, namely tree height, land ownership, social deprivation, while controlling for human population density. We demonstrate that a small number of trees contribute disproportionately towards indirect nature experiences, with individual trees in socio-economically deprived high density housing falling within the viewscape of significantly more buildings. Further, trees in private gardens were generally more important for providing indirect nature experiences than those in public green spaces. This novel study demonstrates the skewed contribution of different organisms to human population indirect nature experiences. This approach can be applied more broadly to understand how individual organisms provide indirect, incidental and intentional nature experiences. Understanding the ecology behind human nature experiences is an important step towards linking urban design and policy for maximising the health benefits from nature.