Increased appreciation of forests and their restorative effects during the COVID-19 pandemic

Magdalena Pichlerova, Jozef Výbošťok*, Dilek Önkal, Kiki Ekiawan Lamatungga, Dhanalakshmi Tamatam, Lenka Marcineková, Viliam Pichler

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Public expectations of forests as high-quality restorative environments that facilitate subjective well-being and stress relief along with numerous health benefits have been rising sharply during recent decades. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic and its accompanying restrictive measures also transformed forests into some of the few places to spend time away from home. The presented study drew on the assumption that the pandemic situation and a rise in the number of forest visits would affect the experience, recognition, and appreciation of the well-being aspects related to spending time in forests. The study goal was to elucidate the potential effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the relationships between forest visits, well-being and stress relief, emotions, perception of nature and forest value and importance, pro-environmental behavior, and societal expectations of the role of forests and forest ecosystem services. A survey using a digital questionnaire was conducted several months after the pandemic outbreak on a representative sample of the Slovak population. The Wilcoxon test and ordinal regression analysis were used to identify significant relationships, e.g., between the recency of anger episodes and the number of forest visits. The results showed that the pandemic strengthened the perception of forests as a high-quality restorative environment and that emotions associated with forest visits played an important role in the perceived importance of forests and their possible overexploitation. The results underscore the urgent need to put demands for forest recreation on par with the forest bioeconomy and to sensitize forest visitors to management and conservation requirements.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
JournalAmbio
Early online date7 Jan 2023
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 7 Jan 2023

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