Can biodiverse streetscapes mitigate the effects of noise and air pollution on human wellbeing?

Jessica C. Fisher*, Eleanor Rankin, Katherine Irvine, Mark A. Goddard, Zoe G. Davies, Martin Dallimer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Most of the global population are urban, with inhabitants exposed to raised levels of pollution. Pollutants negatively impact human wellbeing, and can alter the structure and diversity of ecosystems. Contrastingly, urban biodiversity can positively contribute to human wellbeing. We know little, however, about whether the negative impacts of pollution on wellbeing could be lessened for householders living on more biodiverse streets, as the complex interlinkages between pollution, biodiversity and wellbeing have rarely been examined. Here, we used structural equation modelling to simultaneously test whether biodiversity (actual and perceived) mediates the relationship between traffic-related pollution (noise, dB; nitrogen dioxide, NO2) or air pollution (PM2.5) and wellbeing (mental wellbeing, happiness). In summer 2019, we conducted questionnaires and biodiversity surveys, and collected noise and air pollution data, from households (n = 282) across the streetscapes of Leeds, UK. Biodiversity (actual or perceived) showed no mediating effects. However, increased flowering plant richness was positively associated with mental wellbeing. Traffic-related pollution negatively affected pollinator and flowering plant richness, but not wellbeing. This could be because householders are not exposed to high levels of noise or NO2 because they do not maintain front gardens on noisier streets. There was no measurable effect of air pollution on biodiversity or wellbeing. These findings shed light on the complex mechanisms through which biodiversity could improve human wellbeing. Enhancing the diversity of plant species in streetscapes would have a positive effect on wellbeing, further emphasising the important role that biodiverse urban streetscapes play in improving the liveability of cities.
Original languageEnglish
Article number113154
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental Research
Volume212
Issue numberPart A
Early online date26 Mar 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2022
Externally publishedYes

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