A new paper from Siân de Bell and colleagues at the University of York suggests that improving the natural environment can enhance the benefits it provides for wellbeing.
The aim of the study was to investigate whether the restoration of an urban river, the Medlock in Manchester, was successful in improving the environment and whether the restoration affected the wellbeing of the local community.
The fieldwork was carried out during Sian’s PhD, which was part of the HOPE project at the University of York. Data on the ecological health of the river were collected by sampling and identifying macroinvertebrates. Focus groups were conducted with the local community to discuss how they used the river, the green spaces around it, and their opinions of the restoration.
The study found that the ecological health of the river had improved: there was a greater diversity of macroinvertebrates at the restored site, including species with a lower tolerance for pollution. Local people also thought that the restoration had been effective. They described enjoying the wildlife they saw at the river ‘All of a sudden a kingfisher was fishing there, and you could see little shoals of fish … and … these three dragonflies … all dancing over the river’ and discussed the importance of the river and green space around it for their wellbeing. However, there were concerns that the project had not taken account of the cultural heritage of the area: ‘that (red brick) is also part of our history and some of it should be left’.
Findings from the study suggest that environmental and social benefits are needed to ensure the long-term sustainability of restoration projects, particularly in urban areas.
You can read the full paper ‘Evaluating dual ecological and well-being benefits from an urban restoration’ in Sustainability.
de Bell, S.; Graham, H.; White, P.C.L. Evaluating Dual Ecological and Well-Being Benefits from an Urban Restoration Project. Sustainability 2020, 12, 695.