Case study: Natural Spaces and Health: Mapping Accessible Natural Greenspace in Wales


What was the problem?

As a post-industrial country, Wales has been left with a legacy of ill-health which is causing widespread concern. Out of a population of 2.8 million, Wales has 100,000 economically inactive people. 23% of the population report some kind of limiting illness or disability, 56% of adults and 33% of children are overweight or obese.

How were ecosystem services considered?

While improvements to green space increase biodiversity, they also greatly improve human health. Moderate physical exercise is known to be effective in promoting physical health. For example, research shows that regular exercise or just using green or natural space reduces the risk of heart disease and of hypertension, and those living in greener environments report fewer health complaints. There is also considerable evidence that interaction with nature bolsters mental health.

What was needed to solve the problem in terms of data, resources and capacity?

A detailed literature review was carried out to establish the value of natural space to human health and well-being, amongst other benefits. The review also pointed out the importance of well-designed, accessible natural spaces. The following ratios are also recommended:

• no person should live more than 300m from the nearest area of natural space;

• there should be at least one accessible 20ha site within 2km from home;

• there should be one accessible 100ha site within 5km;

• there should be one accessible 500ha site within 10km

What resulted from taking an ecosystem service perspective? Did the approach influence public management or result in policy uptake?

The Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) set a series of policy targets to encourage green space provision to promote human health. As a first step to achieve the aims of the policy, most local authorities have conducted an initial assessment of natural green spaces in their main towns and cities. They are now developing a series of local policy responses to encourage, amongst other things, the provision of green space during building developments as well as community engagement to survey and improve green space. These interventions concentrate on changing policy and regulations to achieve “greening” at little or no extra cost by refocusing resources.

What else was necessary for it be influential?

This approach would not have succeeded unless emphasis had been placed on nature's ability to promote human health – as opposed to only emphasizing the benefits of biodiversity.

Information prepared within the project "Non-governmental sector participation in the international conference" EU Biodiversity strategy implementation "" financed by Latvian national budget-funded program "Support for public participation in the Latvian Presidency of the Council of the European Union implementation" and administered by the Society Integration Foundation.