We discuss below three ways that urban garden design can bring urban dwellers back into nature and enhance purposeful interactions to build nature connections Figure 1 : 1.
Providing natural elements to engender biophilia—Gardens, as semi-natural systems in the built environment, can be designed and enhanced to represent highly diverse and complex spaces that mimic those in natural systems. Incorporating biophilic elements through garden design provides a means to expose urban dwellers to the diversity of plants, animals, soils that they would otherwise not encounter.
Fostering an understanding of natural processes—The practice of growing food and plants means that gardeners learn about environmental processes, such as pollination or changes in weather patterns, and how they affect plant growth.
This provides participants with a medium to increase their knowledge and appreciation of natural processes, thus fostering biophilia. Increasing human-nature interactions—Urban gardeners come into direct contact with a range of natural elements through interactions with soil, plants, and animals in gardens. This corporeal interaction of handling soil and touching plants can be important for gardeners to experience and gain benefits from natural spaces as well as develop continued curiosity and fascination for the natural world.
Reimagining gardens with biophilic design thinking requires A Bringing in more natural elements to increase the variety of experiences, B Fostering human understanding of environmental processes to appreciate natural systems, C Considering design methods that encourage greater human-nature interactions. All images are reproduced in this figure based on a Creative Commons license or recognized as public domain.
Photo credit and the type of Creative Commons license for each image is found below each image. We review examples from a variety of urban gardens to show how the design of urban gardens can achieve multiple benefits that will enhance urban nature experiences, bringing urban dwellers back into nature to further their understanding and knowledge of the natural world.
Some gardens have little plant diversity and structure e. When designed with nature in mind, urban gardens can support a high level of plant and animal biodiversity that may lure people back into nature. Although gardens are highly managed spaces that provide a specific urban nature experience, adding more plant structural diversity and complexity e. For example, more vegetatively complex elements of the environment are more intriguing and challenging to understand than simple ones.
As such, complex elements can transport people into a new world, lengthen time spent in the garden interacting with nature, and thereby promote lifelong connections to nature Wells and Lekies, We present a number of nature elements that can enhance the biophilic capacity of gardens.
Biodiversity Gardens can be designed to increase the biodiversity within them, exposing people to a wider range of plants and animals than they would otherwise encounter. Similarly, allotment and community gardens can be designed to support biodiversity. Such systems often have high levels of floral diversity that mimic natural grasslands in a small allotted space. The element of rich floral diversity can positively correlate with invertebrate abundance. For example, species-rich community gardens in New York City were found to support a large number of bee species 54 bee species , including species that nest in cavities, hives, and wood Matteson et al.
Structural Complexity The ability to establish and maintain complex structural elements may be difficult in gardens depending on the management rules and regulations of the garden. In private spaces, such as residential yards or home gardens, the potential to provide structural complexity increases as individuals can intentionally design with biophilic thinking. Structural complexity can benefit both humans and animals.
Greater vegetation structure can help create visual complexity that improves attention restoration for those immersed in the space as well as those viewing it from inside the home Grinde and Patil, In many garden studies, invertebrate and vertebrate abundance and diversity positively relates to vegetation complexity, especially woody plant structure Smith et al. The studies indicate the value of trees and shrubs for boosting ecological complexity.
Native Species The planting of native species can be an important nature element to consider in urban gardens. Adding native vegetation within gardens boosts the abundance of bees Pardee and Philpott, , butterflies Burghardt et al.
Native vegetation may be an especially important element because it can better support native fauna to exist in the built environment French et al.
Native plants and animals can also create specific links between people and place, thus increasing emotional attachment and sense of belonging Brook, Growing culturally appropriate food may be needed to match the food needs of ethno-culturally diverse communities Gichunge and Kidwaro, ; Glowa et al.
Surveys of urban gardens in Toronto, where Asian populations are deeply involved in urban gardening, showed that besides the typical local vegetables cabbage, tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant farmers grew an additional 16 vegetable crops to supply the local community with foods unavailable in local grocery stores. These crops included Asian vegetables, such as bok choy, long bean, hairy gourd, and edible chrysanthemums to substantially increase the types of crops seen in the urban garden Baker, Thus, a wide range of natural elements, from more vegetation structure, higher species diversity, the addition of woody trees and shrubs, native plants, and culturally appropriate crops are all additions that can amplify the biophilic draw to urban gardens.
Such elements increase the variety of nature exposure to urban dwellers. Fostering Human Understanding of Natural Processes Urban gardens foster diverse types of learning by bringing individuals together to socially share skills and knowledge Krasny and Tidball, Both the restorative and social aspects of urban gardening provide the mental space to learn about the natural world, thereby promoting biophilia. Through gardening and sustained interaction with natural elements of gardens, people can generate a cognitive understanding of the complexity and interrelatedness of different components of nature.
Gardens provide a platform for humans to learn about interactions between organisms, the interplay between biotic and abiotic factors, and spatial-temporal processes Andersson et al. We discuss four key natural processes centered in urban gardens that enhance an understanding of the natural world in individuals: soil forming processes, plant-soil-water feedbacks, climatic change, and species interactions pollination and pest control.
This experiential learning engenders in people knowledge about managing biotic and abiotic factors that affect crop production in the built environment. Soil Formation Processes Soils are the medium through which many human-nature interactions take place in gardens. Human-soil direct contact may promote perceived well-being improvements through connection to natural elements Egerer et al. But soils are also a way that people learn about nutrient cycling, decomposition, and the moisture retention capacity of their soils Gregory et al.
Urban garden soils often require significant remediation due to soil contamination and compaction Pouyat et al. Thus, learning about how to support these soil processes is necessary for gardeners to boost crop production and may be a way for people to better connect with the earth below. Most gardeners recognize that practices, such as cover cropping and crop rotations improve soil quality and nutrient management. However, educational programs focused on how certain practices affect natural processes of soils can further enhance gardening success by improving people's appreciation of intricate soil processes Gregory et al.
Literacy of soil processes can strengthen connections to soils and importantly translate to biophilic design of garden plots from the ground up, centering on composting, decomposition, and nutrient cycling. Plant-Soil-Water Processes Interactions among plants, soils, and water are one of the primary platforms for increasing knowledge of natural processes in garden systems.
By actively making watering decisions for their plants Egerer et al. Further, gardeners are encouraged to pay particular attention to plant-soil-water processes because water is of concern in many urban agricultural systems in arid regions Lin et al.
Monitoring water usage, for example, is a mean through which gardeners become more aware of their water use and learn about water conservation strategies Egerer et al. Local water conservation as an individual and collective endeavor can also facilitate connections to larger resource conservation initiatives at the regional scale.
These monitoring initiatives and learning processes should be incorporated as a biophilic design strategy. Climate Patterns Urban gardens are central for understanding human biophilic responses to local microclimate and rapid climate changes, including drought and extended periods of extreme heat.
Garden plants are affected by local fluctuations in temperatures Eriksen-Hamel and Danso, most likely because of high evapotranspiration and soil moisture loss Craul, ; Pickett et al. In response, gardeners must monitor weather patterns to make informed decisions on how to best manage their crops.
Gardeners must gain knowledge about climate and become more sensitive to the physical environment because it concerns timing of flowering, seasonality of crop plants, and general plant phenology.
However, urban gardens are often surrounded by built environment and impervious surface that create an urban heat island in and around the urban gardens. Thus, managing the potential climate effects on plants may promote biophilia as gardeners need to learn how to adapt to climate change by altering their water use behavior, plant care, and soil management practices Avolio et al.
Gardeners become more conscious of plant needs and help plants respond to plant stress by providing supplemental water and nutrients or protecting plants from solar radiation using shade cloth Egerer et al. These examples show how human management may be a biophilic response to changing weather patterns and extreme conditions. Pollination and Pest Control Processes Pollination and pest control processes help humans to understand the role of the associated biodiversity of bees, birds, beetles, and spiders in maintaining agroecosystem functions.
By observing bees in garden systems, people become aware of pollinator communities and how they respond to vegetation management and design Burr et al. This accumulated knowledge may lead people to adapt their urban gardens to support the bee population. This could include intentionally incorporating native flowering plants, installing bee hotels, allowing weeds to grow, and constructing novel habitats like urban prairie pocket gardens to support pollinators at key life history stages Andersson et al.
Natural enemies could similarly be important for gardeners to understand food webs and ecological processes like predation, competition, and parasitism to control garden pests through natural pest control processes.
Insect pest damage is one of the most common challenges for gardeners Gregory et al. By understanding natural pest control by beetles, wasps, and birds, gardeners can adapt the garden to support the habitat requirements of these natural enemies, thus providing greater natural pest control to their plots Philpott and Bichier, Master gardener programs are also a way to improve people's knowledge of pollination and pest control processes.
As humans better understand pollination and pest control through individual and collective experiences, they become local stewards of vulnerable urban biodiversity conservation Andersson et al. Through the process of growing crops within urban gardens, people will have the opportunity to observe and appreciate key natural processes essential to environmental systems. A greater understanding how abiotic and biotic processes interact will provide people with a greater appreciation of the complex feedbacks amongst soils, plants, and animals.
A greater understanding of climate and weather processes will provide greater insight into the balance between water provision and use. Such learning is essential to develop an urban population that appreciates and desires to conserve nature. Increasing Human-Nature Interactions Studies of human participation and behavior in nature suggest that physical connections with natural elements are often related with an emotional connection to nature that influence environmental decision making Scott et al.
An ensuing question is whether the plants or pictures improve performance, health, or well-being for the employees. In the same study population it was found that having a view to plants from the work station decreased the amount of self-reported sick leave [ 53 ]. Experimental studies on psychological benefits of indoor plants have recently been reviewed in a report including more than twenty studies [ 54 ].
Most of these studies concern people in settings reflecting everyday life, such as the workplace, students at school, or patients in hospitals. Some studies were more experimental in Nature, typically recruiting college students as subjects for testing the effect of plants in the laboratory. Almost all of the studies had a no-plant control condition, but otherwise they showed considerable variation in experimental manipulations, both quantitatively e.
The duration of exposure to plants also varied, from minutes in laboratory studies up to a year in workplace settings. The measured outcomes reflected practical concerns of the research, and included task performance, affect, physiological arousal, pain perception, health and discomfort symptoms, social behavior, and room evaluations.
Some studies found beneficial effect s , while others did not, or only found them for some groups. None of the studies reported any significant negative outcome associated with the presence of plants. Several studies indicated that indoor plants improve the attractiveness of a room [ 55 — 58 ]. Dijkstra et al. Other studies also indicate lower stress level when adding plants to a windowless work environment [ 22 , 59 ]. The biophilia hypothesis might suggest an impact of plants on emotional states; however, several studies have failed to find any consistent impact [ 56 , 60 — 62 ].
Some studies, using mood scales including several items, found significant differences, but only on particular items [ 57 , 59 , 63 ]. Adachi et al. A couple of reports suggested gender differences in that women, particularly those with a relatively high level of preinduced stress, had the most benefit [ 17 , 44 ].
The idea of a stress-reducing effect also inspired experiments concerned with pain and recovery from disease [ 63 — 66 ]. One starting point for these studies was the idea that the pleasant and attention holding i.
All the studies concluded that the subjects had better tolerance for pain with than without plants present. One report [ 64 ] suggested that flowering plants have more positive effects on pain tolerance and distress than non-flowering plants. Lohr and Pearson-Mims [ 63 ] observed an effect on pain tolerance, apparently due to more than just a distracting quality of plants.
Other experiments have looked at the effect of plants on task performance or self-reported alertness [ 56 , 59 , 60 , 62 ]. The idea is that the presence of indoor plants may help restore attention by relaxing the subjects and help them recover from mental fatigue. Positive effects of plants were reported, although the results are somewhat ambiguous.
One report found that performance on a letter identification task decreased with the presence of a larger number of plants, which was taken to suggest that fascination with plants may interfere with the focus on the task at hand [ 56 ]. A decrease in health complaints, such as tiredness and coughing, has been reported in office and hospital workers when plants were added to the work environment [ 67 , 68 ].
Similar findings on conceived health and level of discomfort were observed in school children [ 68 ]. The authors ascribe the positive outcome in these experiments to either an improvement in air quality, or that a more pleasant visual environment affected the amount of health complaints.
It is worth mentioning that plants may be viewed as one among many types of aesthetic features added to enhance indoor environments. A study by Lohr and Pearson-Mims [ 63 ], however, suggests that plants may have advantages. They found that plants had greater attention holding power and gave greater relief from pain compared to other aesthetic objects such as a designer lamp or an abstract picture. The room with plants was also perceived as more cheerful, pleasant, and inviting.
As in the case of the outdoor studies, it is not obvious that the indoor results reflect solely the visual presence of plants.
It is difficult to exclude an effect of fragrance or of air quality. However, it seems fair to assume that visual impact is an important factor.
Discussion Taking all the reviewed evidence into account, the idea that interacting with Nature can offer positive effects on health and well-being seems to be reasonably well substantiated. Thus, the biophilia hypothesis has merit. The evidence includes studies on outdoor activities, therapeutic use of Nature, having a view of Nature either actual Nature or in pictures , and adding plants to indoor environments. Moreover, the notion that part of the effect is mediated through visual contact with plants also appears to be substantiated.
The above statement is based on empirical data, but supported by theoretical expectations, which suggest that the absence of Nature is a potential discord.
The latter point has been raised recently by Richard Louv [ 69 ], who use the term nature-deficit, and suggests that the increase in prevalences of conditions such as obesity, attention disorders, and depression is partly due to a decrease in the degree children are exposed to Nature. Biophilia may be described as a vague preference for having a natural environment as a consequence of our evolutionary history.
As such, one would expect that plants are agreeable, and that the absence of greenery is sensed, possibly unconsciously, as a stress factor. In other words, the presence of plants can impact on the human mind. Biophilia, however, is probably not an attribute with a strong penetrance. Thus the relationship between humans and plants is likely to be shaped to a large extent by cultural factors and individual peculiarities [ 47 ].
On a theoretical basis, it should be expected that if plants in a natural setting have an impact, so would indoor greenery. However, one might also expect that disconnected, potted plants are less potent than outdoor Nature. The overall trend in the literature appears to support this contention. In their review, Bringslimark et al.
They concluded that although some findings recurred, such as enhanced pain management with plants present, the mixed results from the studies suggest that more research is needed in order to define possible effects. None of the studies reported obvious negative effects. It might be argued that if there was no effect, an equal number of studies would be expected to find negative as positive correlates between health parameters and the presence of plants.
On the other hand, publications are liable to the bias of preferential reporting of positive results. It is not possible to know how many trustworthy neutral or negative findings that are not published, but the fact that several articles reported absence of effect indicates that both types of results would be publishable. One problem in detecting possible effects is that most studies, for practical reasons, span a short time-period. Some only look at brief exposure to plants, while others may follow subjects for a year or so.
To the extent that the absence of plants is a discord, one might expect that the consequences are more likely to be apparent over a life time. Moreover, although the therapeutic or preventive potential of plants is likely to be limited, as the indoor environment is the daily setting for a majority of the present population, even minor effects of adding plants can add up to a substantial decrease in the health burden on a global scale.
The positive effect of having a view from the window may be related more to the perceived openness than to any particularities of the vista. Velarde et al. In this context, it should, however, be mentioned that green spaces perceived to be unmanaged may have an adverse effect in the cities by causing an increased anxiety for crime [ 70 ]. Some studies reported differences in the response to plants depending on gender [ 17 , 44 , 61 , 62 ]. Although the results were somewhat mixed, there seemed to be a tendency for women to respond stronger to plants than men.
On a theoretical ground one might expect that women take more interest in plants due to differences in activities during the formative period of human evolution; that is, women were supposedly more involved in gathering plants as food, while men were more tuned towards hunting. However, the difference may also be due to cultural bias; for example, in Western societies it has traditionally been the task of women to care for the home, which will typically include both garden and indoor plants.
There seems to be a current trend towards a love for TV and computer screens rather than for nature, in that people use the former more and the latter less [ 71 , 72 ]. Although indoor plants may ameliorate some of the negative effects of this trend, it can hardly be more than a substitute for experiencing real Nature outdoors. The biophilia trait can be reinforced or subdued by individual learning.
It seems likely, however, that even in individuals who do not express any appreciation for plants and nature, the lack of nature can have a negative effect. Moreover, although the demonstrated effects are not overwhelming, the cost of making nature available, if only as potted plants, is neither prohibiting.
In other words, it seems worthwhile to encourage interaction with plants, both outdoor and indoor, as this is likely to be a useful environmental initiative with a sound cost-benefit profile. References 1. Wilson EO. The Biophilia Hypothesis. Manaker GH. Interior Plantscapes: Installation, Maintenance, and Management. Kellert SR. Restorative Gardens The Healing Landscape.
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Moreover, although the therapeutic or preventive potential of plants is likely to be limited, as the indoor environment is the daily setting for a majority of the present population, even minor effects of adding plants can add up to a substantial decrease in the health burden on a global scale. The term Environment of Evolutionary Adaptation, or EEA, is used to denote the qualities of the environment humans are adapted to live in [ 6 , 7 ]. It should be noted that recent research claiming that species knowledge is important in connecting people to nature, did not use a validated measure of connection with nature [ 53 ].
Most gardeners recognize that practices, such as cover cropping and crop rotations improve soil quality and nutrient management.
Sartorines, G. The word discord is used for mismatches that have a negative impact; i.
The word discord is used for mismatches that have a negative impact; i.
Literacy of soil processes can strengthen connections to soils and importantly translate to biophilic design of garden plots from the ground up, centering on composting, decomposition, and nutrient cycling. To the extent that the absence of plants is a discord, one might expect that the consequences are more likely to be apparent over a life time. Google Scholar Davey, G. Thus, gardens with multiple natural elements may be able to attract and trigger these feelings of curiosity for a greater number of people.
None of the studies reported obvious negative effects. It is difficult to exclude an effect of fragrance or of air quality.
Markus and S. In their review, Bringslimark et al.
Some mismatches are beneficial, such as sleeping on a mattress instead of on the ground, while others may contribute to disease or reduce life quality. Beck eds. Thus, managing the potential climate effects on plants may promote biophilia as gardeners need to learn how to adapt to climate change by altering their water use behavior, plant care, and soil management practices Avolio et al. As such, one would expect that plants are agreeable, and that the absence of greenery is sensed, possibly unconsciously, as a stress factor. This vulnerability presumably helps explain why mental disorders are one of the main health problems of Western societies [ 10 ]. Kaplan and J.
Knowledge is generated and transmitted through shared practice and knowledge exchange. London, UK: Thus, to the extent that a lack of natural elements is a discord, one would expect that a closer association with nature should improve psychological health. Markus and S.