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Every bit of green space can have positive benefits for the environment

Experts say it’s not just bigger spaces like parks that can have health benefits for consumers

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Photo (c) Alexander Spatari - Getty Images
A new study conducted by researchers from the University of New South Wales explored how different kinds of green spaces can be beneficial for consumers’ health and the environment. 

While larger spaces like parks and gardens have been linked with health benefits, their findings suggest that smaller spaces like the greenery on the side of roadways also come with health and environmental benefits. 

“Parks are not the homogenised ecological deserts that we think they are -- they are living ecosystems that do amazing things,” said researcher David Eldrige. “Urban greenspaces harbor important microbes, so if you want to sustain a bunch of ecosystem services, you need to have plenty of parks and green spaces.” 

The importance of all green spaces

For the study, the researchers collected soil samples from different types of urban green spaces from nearly 60 cities around the world. They looked at how these spaces impacted the surrounding ecosystems and how consumers’ mental and physical health changed based on the greenery

Though green spaces are hard to come by in some urban areas, the researchers found that any greenery in these regions is important for both the environment and consumers. Urban green spaces have some of the most diverse microbes, and they remain important components of the natural ecosystem because they provide bacteria that aren’t found in some natural green spaces. 

The researchers explained that this is also true for some of the smallest green spaces -- like patches of greenery on the side of major roadways. Though most consumers wouldn’t consider these to be beneficial in any way, this study showed that these areas play an important environmental role. 

“We think of roadsides as being barren, but we found a great variety of different microbes in some roadside verges; they are not barren wastelands at all,” Eldridge said. “Some European cities such as Bern in Switzerland have a policy to protect the natural vegetation along footpaths and roadsides. These pathways then become mini green spaces, linking larger green spaces. We need lots of different microbes, and to get this, we need a variety of landscapes such as median strips, parks, and nature reserves.” 

From a consumer health perspective, the researchers explained that green spaces can help limit consumers’ allergy symptoms and improve overall immune system function. The team plans to do more work in this area to better understand how green spaces can benefit consumers’ health and the environment. 

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