The Community Benefits of Nature

I decided to devote my career to the environment more than 20 years ago, so I don’t need to be convinced that nature is good for me. But while working on the City of Hudson’s Open Space and Natural Resource Inventory last year, my passion was reignited as I read study after study about the benefits of nature in the city. 


Not only do urban vegetation and natural areas provide habitat, reduce polluted runoff, clean the air, and cool the air, they also make our lives better. More plants and singing birds in your neighborhood are linked to a less depression, anxiety, and stress.[1] There are fewer emergency asthma attacks in polluted urban areas with more trees and greenery.[2] Open spaces and natural areas give urban residents places to encounter plants and animals as well as experience solitude.[3] Crime and violence are lower and people feel safer in areas with well-maintained vegetation.[4]

My first reaction while writing the summary was to walk the two blocks to the nearest city park. The park near my house is well-maintained and my neighborhood has lots of street trees because my city invests in them. That isn’t true in all communities, nor, sadly, for all neighborhoods in my city.

But it’s not just about me. Nature is not just for the plants and animals. Planting gardens and street trees is not a just nice thing to do or pretty to look at. Urban green spaces benefit everyone in the community.

A natural resource inventory is one way to take stock of your community’s natural assets and benefits. It is also an opportunity to have an inclusive conversation about what natural resources are important and how they help meet community needs.

For more stories about how nature is good for society, listen to this Hidden Brain podcast and this NPR story about the benefit of greening urban lots. I’ll be writing more about natural resource inventories in my next post. If you want help taking stock of natural resources in your community, let me know.


[1]Cox, D. T. C., Shanahan, D. F., Hudson, H. L., Plummer, K. E., Siriwardena, G. M., Fuller, R. A., and Gaston, K. J. 2017. Doses of neighborhood nature: The benefits for mental health of living with nature. BioScience, 67(2), 147–155.

[2]Alcock, I, M. White, M. Cherrie, B. Wheeler, J. Taylor, R. McInnes, E. Otte im Kampe, S. Vardoulakis, C. Sarran, I.Soyiri, L. Fleming. 2017. Land cover and air pollution are associated with asthma hospitalisations: A cross-sectional study. Environment International109: 29 DOI: 10.1016/j.envint.2017.08.009

[3]Dunn, R. R., Gavin, M. C., Sanchez, M. C., & Solomon, J. N. (2006). The pigeon paradox: Dependence of global conservation on urban nature. Conservation Biology, 20(6), 1814–1816.

[4]Kuo, F. E., & Sullivan, W. C. (2001). ENVIRONMENT AND CRIME IN THE INNER CITY Does Vegetation Reduce Crime? 33(3), 343–367.

[5]Burroughs, J. 1908. The Writings of John Burroughs Volume 15: Leaf and Tendril. Originally published by Houghton Mifflin,  New York.