A masterclass on forests’ impact on human health and wellbeing

Learn about the benefits of nature on human wellbeing and the role of young foresters in managing green areas from this virtual lecture by Silva Mediterranea and World Food Forum held on 23 March.

Photo: Teo Doulke/Pexels

Silva Mediterranea’s Mediterranean Youth Task Force (MYTF) in collaboration with the World Food Forum organized a Masterclass on how forests benefit our mind and body in celebration of the International Day of Forests, with presentations from professor Laura Secco, Dr. Aynur Mammadova and Aisling Sealy Phelan, all from the TESAF Department of the University of Padova. The recording of the session can be found here.

Professor Secco highlighted the various ways of enjoying nature, also known as forest-based socio cultural ecosystem services. Detailing the psychological, physiological and social effects of nature on human wellbeing, determined by multiple characteristics found in the natural setting, namely the aesthetic aspect, the presence of phytoncides and negative ions, sounds and sunlight.

Ending the presentation with a message to young foresters on the role they can play in assisting urban and rural planners in managing green areas, assisting forest managers in getting certified and developing adequate management plans, assisting forest owners and ensuring they are rewarded for the ecosystem services their land provides.

Photo: Silva Mediterranea MYTF

From her end, Dr. Aynur Mammadova introduced the Green4C project, spanning over 3 years and aiming at promoting nature-based health and social care through university business alliances, and support for innovation and entrepreneurship. Given the obvious disconnection between humans and nature, and all societal challenges negatively affecting human health, and as on average only 3% of healthcare expenditure is spent on preventive care and health promotion, a paradigm shift was needed to rethink the relational values of nature. Induced by the Covid-19 pandemic, all the focus was shifted towards the recognition of the links between human wellbeing, and the health of the surrounding environment, leading to the development of the Green Care concept, addressing human and societal needs by interacting with nature. Green care improves focus and ability to concentrate, has relaxing effects, reduces stress, and facilitates healing. Forest-based care is an integral part of Green care providing socio-cultural benefits in 3 main categories: treatment and rehabilitation, promotion of health and wellbeing, and synergistic benefits such as education, tourism, recreation and art.

Lastly Aisling Sealy Phelan PhD student at TESAF explained her research consisting on the economic valuation of cultural ecosystem services generated by green care in European countries. She will be combining market and non-market valuation methods to get a more comprehensive estimate of the total economic value. This will help estimate the potential for green care to reduce public costs compared to traditional treatments, thus providing evidence on the health value of nature.

On an ending note, with the growing attention to the impact of nature on human health and wellbeing, scientific gaps still need to be filled, legal and institutional frameworks established, educational curricula revised, networks and partnerships adopted, in order to recognize forest-based care initiatives as agents of green economy due to the different types of innovation bringing social, economic and environmental impacts.

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Silva Mediterranea
Silva Mediterranea is the Committee on Mediterranean Forestry Questions within the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The aim of the entity is to review and examine trends in forestland use, technology, regional developments, and forest management approaches, and to support member nations to formulate and implement national forest policies.