New plan calls for urban wetlands to help ‘level up’ inequalities in wellbeing - Wildfowl & Wetland Trust

Creating wildlife-rich wetlands like ponds, streams, wetland parks and rain gardens in deprived urban communities could help level up inequalities in wellbeing across the UK, according to a new report launched today.

Currently, people in the poorest urban and ethnic communities are twice as likely as those in more affluent groups to live in neighbourhoods without good quality blue or green spaces. Some research suggests this differing access to nature-rich areas could be associated with health inequalities.

The Wildfowl & Wetland Trust’s (WWT) Creating Urban Wetlands for Wellbeing. A Route Map’ outlines how high-quality wetlands could help tackle these inequalities, often more effectively than other forms of nature.

The report highlights how wetlands can help low-income urban communities, which are frequently most at risk from the harmful impacts of poor mental health and the climate crisis, through relieving stress, cooling cities, reducing air and water pollution, alleviating flooding and boosting biopersity.

In addition, the report outlines how blue spaces (environments that feature open water, such as wetlands) directly reduce stress more than green spaces alone. This could be due to the particularly wide range of stimuli wetland nature provides which engage all the senses. The light, soundscapes, changing patterns on water, and meaningful personal associations associated with aquatic settings may all reduce stress.

The powerful calming effect of blue space is further demonstrated by a study of 16,000 people across 18 countries, which found that frequently visiting ‘watery’ nature decreased mental distress. Just 10 minutes spent in urban wetlands can be enough to improve a person’s mood.

People also socialise more in blue spaces, helping to build community cohesion and reduce social isolation. And restored linear wetlands, such as rivers, provide opportunities for physically active travel and leisure in space-limited towns and cities.

WWT is working with the Mental Health Foundation (MHF) and the NHS, prescribing wetlands in London for people experiencing poor mental health with limited resources.

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Posted On: 06/07/2022

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