Communities and Landscapes of the Urban Northeast

Human Health & Well-being

joggers on a nature trailThis work unit specializes in understanding the many ways that our individual and community health and well-being are affected and underpinned by relation and access to trees, forests, and greenspace, and how these factors in turn influence our relationship to one another. At an individual level, research shows the ways in which spending time in nature can reduce anger, fatigue, anxiety, sadness; improve hospital recovery times; enhance learning and reduce symptoms of ADHD; and much more. Studies show reductions in stress by spending time outdoors; and reductions in violence, crime, and fear in communities that had blighted lots that were transformed into ‘clean and green’ lots. At a community level, spending time tending for or recreating in nature enhances social cohesion and resilience, assets that may translate into everything from improved personal health to improved community recovery from disasters – all of which also have economic implications. Finally, the very presence or absence of tree cover in a community can make a life or death difference during extreme events such as heat waves. Tree canopy cover can reduce ambient temperatures in a neighborhood: shaded surfaces can be 20-45 degrees cooler than unshaded surfaces; and evapotranspiration, alone or in combination with shade, can reduce peak summer temperatures by 2-9 degrees F. For individuals and populations (newborns, elderly) in the most socioeconomically vulnerable neighborhoods (without access to air conditioning or other means of cooling), this can lead to reduced heat stroke and death, or the prevention of expensive hospital visits, in extreme heat.

Selected Research across locations:

Selected Research anchored at a particular Urban Field Station:

Research Highlights

  • Last Modified: August 6, 2019