About this Research Topic
Urban ecology provides a comprehensive analysis and application of understanding of the main human habitat: the urban areas in which some 60 percent of the world’s people live. The urban ecosystem comprises the buildings, streets, blue and greenspaces, soils and substrates and the air within, between and above all these features, together with all the life forms occupying all the niches and living spaces within and between them. Inevitably the biodiversity within this ecosystem has both beneficial and negative impacts on human health and well-being, some of which, for example the general mental and physical health benefits of urban greenspaces, have been well-explored. However, the impact of specific designs and types of greenspace and vegetation assemblages are less well-known. Many may also have negative impacts on human well-being, even creating anxiety or fear. The influences of building design and of microbial activity in different urban settings, as well as nature- induced allergic reactions, on human well-being are less well understood.
Analysis of health and well-being issues relies on data about people who have reported health problems, who have been contacted while using greenspaces or in house-to-house surveys. The evidence is patchy and incomplete. Yet, a large amount of new research in recent years has demonstrated the real benefits in access to, and use of, both parks and natural areas in and around urban areas. The valuing nature and biodiversity exercises have begun to strengthen the case for investment in nature-based solution, prescribing nature walks and open space exercise, improving access to urban greenspaces and restoring derelict land. Engagement with local communities and all their human diversity has expanded but many efforts have barely moved beyond the experimental. Practitioners need to know what really works, what to avoid and where to find reliable information. Students need good practice examples and reliable assessments of alternative theories and research methods.
This collection of articles aims to bring ideas, evidence, good practice and critical appraisals of current research together; to point out where we have reliable, applicable knowledge; where our understanding is weak; where important issues are being missed; and emerging issues such as how urban environments impact the risks and spread of infectious diseases like Ebola and COVID-19. Papers might examine how the health problems of cities differentially affect urban communities and how that relates to the quality of the environment in which people live, their access to green and blue spaces, the food they eat, the work they do, or their income and their housing. How can health and well-being problems be alleviated by redesigning urban areas, from improved drainage and infrastructure to new parks, lakes and nature reserves? Papers could explore synergies and co-benefits of urban designs such as nature-based flood and urban heat island mitigation schemes, and the ecosystem services they provide.
We particularly welcome articles focused on the following research themes in Urban Ecology and Human Health:
1. “Nature‐based solutions” for improved public health
2. Benefits of “rewilding” in urban areas
3. Zoonotic and other communicable diseases in urban ecosystems
4. Causal relationships between environmental factors and microbial ecology in cities
5. Assessing the physical and mental health benefits of exercise in urban green and blue spaces
6. Social diversity in use of blue and green spaces in cities
7. Urban ecology and future urban heat stress and discomfort, including the design of buildings; green architecture
8. Aversion to certain types of natural vegetation settings and to designed landscapes in urban areas
9. Potential health risks associated with certain plants or plant assemblages; or from feral or wild animals in urban greenspaces
10. Impacts of urbanization on public health, covering how urbanization issues, such as waste and deprivation, affect the environment and public health directly or indirectly
11. Inter-regional and global contrasts in the urban ecology links to human health and well-being
12. Empowering people with chronic illnesses (e.g., dementia) through contact with urban nature.
Keywords: health and well-being, public health, green prescribing, exercise in nature, mental health, empowering people, green and blue infrastructure, nature-based solutions
Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.