New research findings shed light on our relationship with urban nature and reliance on green spaces - National Tree Day Blog

New research findings shed light on our relationship with urban nature and reliance on green spaces

Have you been craving nature more in the last 12 months? A new study from Norway explores our relationship with nature in the time of crisis and the importance of green space for urban resilience design.

The global response to the COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it significant changes to human mobility patterns and working environments. At the beginning of April 2020, half the world's population were under some form of confinement, with more than 3.9 billion people ordered to stay home to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  

In Norway, the lockdown was less severe, and citizens could spend time outdoors while adhering to social distancing. This unique aspect of the Norwegian lockdown allowed researchers to raise the question of whether urban green space played a significant role in the way people adapted to the pandemic, perhaps spending more time in nature.  

The study analysed publicly available data of citizens living in the Oslo municipality and found outdoor recreational activity increased by 291 per cent during 2020 lockdown dates (13 March onward). To put it simply, the number of unique daily recreational activities increased from 28,000 to 114,000 (86,000 increase). Google searches including Norweigen words for forest (‘Marka’), trip/hike (‘tur’) and outdoors (‘utendørs’) all increased substantially during lockdown dates showing the desire to get outdoors.  

Palace park in autumn, Oslo, Norway by Sergio Rojo.

Palace park in autumn, Oslo, Norway by Sergio Rojo.

Countries all over the world are looking to bring elements of wildness back into cities through a process called ‘Rewilding’. In the United Kingdom, a conservation charity is hoping to make Nottingham the country’s first “rewilded city,” starting by transforming what was a massive concrete shopping mall built in the 1960s, into a wildlife haven. In London, the removal of more than 32 kilometers of concrete tunnels and the introduction of native plantings has increased kingfisher sightings by 450 per cent. In Barcelona, coronavirus lockdowns have been credited with an increase in public support for the city council’s urban rewilding plans including proposals to install 200 nesting towers for bats and birds, as well as 40 beehives, and planting plans designed to attract insects. In Australia, an old school site has been turned into a nature and healing park, urban farming is on the rise, and we have seen a surge in people growing their crops. There’s no better time to rethink our relationship with the natural world to ensure people and nature both thrive.  

Jennifer McMillan

Jen worked as a vet nurse while studying environmental science and completing her master's degree in Journalism. She loves bushwalking, storytelling, caring for baby animals, Australian birds and river red gums. Jen works on the National Tree Day and National Recycling Week campaigns.