News Climate, General

It is already well-known and scientifically revealed that nature enhances people’s mental, physical and social wellbeing and supports their learning. Previous debate on the positive effects of nature has primarily focused on forests and other green spaces. The development of the blue bioeconomy has created the need to investigate the opportunities offered by natural water environments (i.e. blue spaces) more closely to create wellbeing services for different customer groups that are not limited to recreation and tourism.

A new publication, Wellbeing from blue spaces, produced by Luke’s researchers seeks to respond to this need and presents the current knowledge of the blue spaces as a source of wellbeing as well as provides an overview of the ongoing and emerging practices in this field.

What’s special in blue?

Blue spaces are often associated with green ones. In fact, people appreciate most landscapes that include both green and blue elements. Yet, there are reasons to pay attention to blue: “Compared to many other natural spaces, there is less research on the effects of blue spaces on wellbeing. Although the mechanisms behind the positive effects of green and blue spaces are very similar, there are issues that make them different. The special characteristics of blue spaces should be taken into account when developing new services around natural water environments”, says researcher Elina Vehmasto, one of the authors of the publication.

Recreation and tourism often take place in natural water environments both in urban and rural areas. Yet, accessibility to water may be restricted due to physical, technical, economic or cultural constrains. People might not be used to spend time in the water environment, even if it would be possible. Nevertheless, water environments can be used as effective learning environments for kindergarten or school kids and for recreational activities of socially excluded or disabled people, to name few examples.

Kindergarten kids learning about different fish species in natural water environment.

Basis in clean water

Globally speaking, there are huge differences in availability of the freshwater environments, in particular the clean ones. By 2025, up to two thirds of the world’s population will suffer from lack of access to water to some degree. In Finland and Nordic countries, we are almost surrounded by various types of water environments. “The Nordic countries could potentially play a greater role in the global water supply and as a source of other wellbeing. To this end, it is even more important to take care of their quality: clean water is the basis for all ecosystem services, also the cultural ones”, summarizes researcher Katriina Soini from Luke.

The new publication describes and provides examples of natural water environments as a source for multiple blue wellbeing services, as well as their use, availability and effects on health. The conclusion briefly discusses future research and policy needs. The publication is based on a wide range of sources: existing research literature, workshops and meetings that the ongoing projects at Luke have organized around this topic, as well as a consultation with various practitioners and researchers working in the field.

Read the publication here:

Wellbeing from blue spaces – streams in research and good practices