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Perceived biodiversity, sound, naturalness and safety enhance the restorative quality and wellbeing benefits of green and blue space in a neotropical city

Fisher, Jessica C., Irvine, Katherine Nesbitt, Bicknell, Jake Emmerson, Hayes, William Michael, Fernandes, Damian, Mistry, Jayalaxshmi, Davies, Zoe Georgina (2020) Perceived biodiversity, sound, naturalness and safety enhance the restorative quality and wellbeing benefits of green and blue space in a neotropical city. Science of the Total Environment, . Article Number 143095. ISSN 0048-9697. E-ISSN 1879-1026. (doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.143095) (KAR id:83482)


Urban land cover expansion and human population growth are accelerating worldwide. This is resulting in the loss and degradation of green and blue spaces (e.g. parks, waterways, lakes) in cities, which provide resources to sustain biodiversity and improve human wellbeing. The specific characteristics of these spaces (e.g. sounds, species, safety) that enhance or detract from wellbeing are underexplored, yet this knowledge is needed to inform urban planning, management and policies that will ultimately benefit both people and biodiversity. Research of this kind is rarely conducted in the Global South, where rapid urbanisation threatens biodiversity-rich ecosystems of worldwide significance. Here, we examine how perceptions of green, waterway, and dense urban spaces relate to wellbeing in Georgetown, Guyana. Specifically, we use mediation models to test how perceptions of sound, bird species richness, naturalness, and safety concerns contribute to sites being perceived as restorative which, subsequently, influences wellbeing. We assess the accuracy of these site perceptions with objective measures of sound (using a bioacoustic sound index), bird species richness, and percent coverage of vegetation, water, and impervious surfaces. Results showed that if sites were perceived as species rich, containing natural sounds like birdsong, natural rather than artificial, and safe, they were perceived as more restorative, resulting in improved wellbeing. In general, people’s perceptions were consistent with objective measures. Green, compared with waterway and dense urban sites, contained more biophonic sounds, higher species richness, greater vegetation and water coverage. Although waterways were biodiverse, they were dominated by anthrophonic sounds, so were perceived as artificial and non-restorative. We shed light on how city planners might augment specific characteristics to improve the wellbeing of urban dwellers, with implications for biodiversity conservation. Our findings provide a scientific evidence base for urban design and management plans that could deliver multiple co-benefits, particularly in biodiversity-rich cities in neotropical regions.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.143095
Uncontrolled keywords: Birdsong, conservation, Global South, Guyana, species richness, urban
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Anthropology and Conservation > DICE (Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology)
Funders: European Research Council (
Depositing User: Jessica Fisher
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2020 11:47 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Nov 2023 15:06 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Fisher, Jessica C..

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Bicknell, Jake Emmerson.

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Hayes, William Michael.

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Davies, Zoe Georgina.

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