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A qualitative analysis of UK wetland visitor centres as a health resource

Reeves, Jonathan P., John, Conor H. D., Wood, Kevin A. and Maund, Phoebe R. 2021. A qualitative analysis of UK wetland visitor centres as a health resource. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 18 (16) , 8629. 10.3390/ijerph18168629

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The health benefits associated with spending time in natural environments have been highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic. Lockdowns and restrictions to safeguard public health have exacerbated the pre-existing mental health crisis and rise of non-communicable diseases. Thus, the importance of nature as a health resource has been elevated, hastening calls for a better understanding of how health benefits might differ across user groups and nature provisions. In this regard, urban green spaces have become the greatest research focus; however, blue spaces, especially inland freshwater (e.g., wetlands), remain less studied. First-hand user experiences are also under-represented. This exploratory study examines the motivations and benefits of active wetland centre users in the UK, both during and after visits. Responses to three open-ended questions were collated online from 385 participants, and a qualitative content analysis was conducted based on an existing taxonomy from users of urban green spaces. The results showed strong motivations to visit due to the biodiversity at the site (mainly the birdlife), while less tangible nature (e.g., fresh air) and amenities were also important. In contrast to other studies on natural environments, physical activity was a less influential motivation. Salient derived effects included positive and intensely positive emotions, relaxation and mental restoration. After visits to wetland centres, feelings of vitality and satisfaction were the most prominent effects that emerged. For decision-makers looking to leverage inland blue spaces for public health benefit, our results highlight the broad range and relative prominence of the reasons for use and the associated perceived health benefits derived by users of UK wetland centres. They highlight how biodiversity, abiotic nature and good amenities are important qualities to consider when planning, managing and encouraging people to use natural environments for health benefit, qualities that may also provide important environmental co-benefits.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Psychology
Additional Information: This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (https:// 4.0/
Publisher: MDPI
ISSN: 1660-4601
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 23 August 2021
Date of Acceptance: 10 August 2021
Last Modified: 25 Aug 2021 10:00

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