Restoring nature can help communities recover from COVID-19 - National Tree Day Blog

Restoring nature can help communities recover from COVID-19

From strengthening the immune system, to improving mental health and creating new jobs – research shows why we need nature now more than ever.

New research published in The Lancet Planetary Health, shows how the restoration of the natural world can help societies recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and combat associated health and social problems.  

Healthy ecosystems clean our water, purify our air, maintain our soil and provide us with essential products and benefits. The healthier our ecosystems are, the healthier the planet and its people. The United Nations has declared 2021 to 2030 the Decade on Ecosystem Restoration – a global push to heal our planet. More than half the world’s population live in urban areas and it’s expected to increase to 68 per cent by 2050. The Australian scientists behind the new research highlight several ways in which protecting and restoring nature are vital to humanity’s recovery from COVID-19.  

The environment enhances the immune system 

Heard of the biodiversity hypothesis? It states that contact with natural environments enriches the human microbiome, promotes immune balance and protects from allergy and inflammation.  

Growing evidence suggests exposure to a range of microscopic life forms like bacteria, fungi and algae found in soil, plants, water and air is vital to our health from an early age. This exposure prepares our immune system in building cells that protect us from pathogens.  

The diversity of pathogens is higher in natural areas with many different species of plants and animals. Another reason to go for a walk in the forest.  

Using nature as medicine  

The COVID-19 pandemic divided us from one another but provided opportunities to reconnect with nature. Studies show people spent more time in nature and visited nature more often during the pandemic. People generally visited nature for the health and wellbeing benefits and felt nature helped them cope during the pandemic. Even the sounds of nature can have therapeutic benefits and help us recover from mental fatigue.  

Forest bathing, or Shinrin-yoku is officially endorsed as a form of nature therapy in Japan. In Canada doctors are prescribing patients with a pass to national parks in a bid to improve their mental and physical health.  

Improving social equity and creating green jobs  

Restoring ecosystems can improve people’s living environments and create “green job” opportunities for the future. Actions such as tree planting, ecotherapy and environmental management are emerging areas of job growth. 

Read the full article in The Conversation here

Planet Ark does not take responsibility for the accuracy of the original information and encourages readers to check the references before using this information for their own purposes. 

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.