Variability in forest visit numbers in different regions and population segments before and during the COVID-19 pandemic

Magdaléna Pichlerová, Dilek Onkal, Anthony Bartlett, Jozef Výbošťok, Viliam Pichler*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

In view of the prevailing preferences for health and recreation revealed by previous studies as the main expected benefits of forest visits, the research presented herein focuses on whether such expectations would translate into a significant increase in the number of forest visits (NFV) following pandemic outbreaks. In this context, a Slovak nationwide survey on forests was conducted, with the main objective of casting light on possible changes in NFV as a coping mechanism or behavioral response to the discomfort and severe restrictions stemming from coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and the related measures. The survey was administered on a statistically representative sample after the pandemic’s first wave ebbed and restrictions were eased in the summer months of 2020. Collected data were assessed using ANOVA, the results of which supported the importance of forests as places providing opportunities for restoration of mental and physical resources. Forest accessibility as represented by forest coverage and settlement size emerged as a paramount factor affecting NFV rates both before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic and its accompanying measures affected the relationships between NFV and average per capita income, type of employment, and most importantly age, highlighting possible vulnerabilities and disadvantages in certain population segments.
Original languageEnglish
Article number3469
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Volume18
Issue number7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 26 Mar 2021

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