Colléony, A., Clayton, S., & Shwartz, A. (2022). Impacts of nature deprivations during the COVID-19 pandemic: A pre-post comparison. Biological conservation, 268, 109520.
Nature provides a myriad of intangible and non-material services to people. However, urbanites are increasingly disconnected from the natural world. The consequences of this progressive disconnection from nature remain difficult to measure as this process is slow and long-term monitoring or large-scale manipulation on nature experiences are scarce. Measures to contain the spread of the recent COVID-19 pandemic (i.e., lockdowns) have potentially reduced or even suppressed nature experiences in cities. This situation provided an opportunity for conducting a longitudinal study that can serve as a sort of natural experiment to quantify the effects of nature deprivation on individuals' health, well-being and relationship to nature. We collected data on these variables from the same individuals inhabiting a large metropolis (Tel Aviv, Israel) twice, in 2018 (before) and during the lockdown in 2020. Our results confirmed that frequency, duration and quality of nature interactions dropped during the lockdown, while environmental attitudes and affinity towards nature remained similar. This was particularly true for people living in the least green neighborhoods, where a significant decrease in personal and social well-being was also found. Finally, affinity towards nature influenced well-being through nature experiences in 2018. The mediation effect was not significant in 2020, probably due to the decrease in nature experiences during the lockdown, but the direct relationship between affinity towards nature and well-being remained strong. These results provide insights into the means required to align the public health and conservation agendas to safeguard urbanites' health and well-being during a pandemic and mitigate the biodiversity crisis.
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