As stated in the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, “Nature is as important for our mental and physical wellbeing as it is for our society’s ability to cope with global change, health threats and disasters. We need nature in our lives”. Large, continuous natural spaces like forests and more accessible woodlands in our cities provide increased air quality, health protection, and resilience to climate changes, as well as occasions for sociobehavioral and cultural ecosystem services (CESs) and even health outcomes. This could mitigate the consequences of urbanization processes such as the growth of non-communicable diseases, the increased pressure on social, educational and health services, the disconnection with nature, and the response to the need to have space for social interaction and stress relief. In parallel, the rural and forestry worlds are facing structural changes toward a more service-centric economy. Therefore, the expansion of forest-based ecosystem services and multiple uses is evolving in harmony with the emerging social demands for wellbeing. Although examples of organized initiatives enabling contact with forest ecosystems for wellbeing promotion are thriving, the problem faced is a generalized lack of information on the initiatives, as well as tools to collect and standardize the information about their relevant environmental, social, and economic aspects. Therefore, this study aims to disentangle the multifaceted concept of forest initiatives for wellbeing and gain better knowledge and understanding of ongoing initiatives in order to grasp and analyze useful information that might support their development.
The authors of this article propose an umbrella definition (i.e., Forest Care Initiatives), a custom-made repository to collect and systematize information on FCIs in Italy, and discuss a categorization scheme to cluster initiatives into three main categories according to target users, substitutability of the forest ecosystem, and the specificity of the health contributions to which they are aimed.
The authors analyzed 232 initiatives, showing a lively panorama of Italian FCIs, mainly provided by private entities and civil society. FCI developments appear to be occasions for, but are not restricted to, rural and marginal areas delivering inclusive wellbeing services to a wide target user group and business opportunities.
This can be considered a first effort towards a better understanding of the wellbeing services from forests, opportunities for businesses and for valuing forest ecosystems. We hope that this work can be an inspiration for further research to account for benefits and opportunities and to increase knowledge on enabling forest environments.
Title and publication:
“Disentangling the Diversity of Forest Care Initiatives: A Novel Research Framework Applied to the Italian Context”.
Sustainability 2021, 13(2), 492; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13020492
- Ilaria Doimo
- Mauro Masiero
- Paola Gatto