Why can’t nature stay in parks?

In previous posts, we talked about two important things nature does for us: promote human health and well-being, and keep society functioning through the provision of ecosystem services. Why can’t we get these benefits while keeping nature contained in parks?

Parks are not big enough.

95% of the land in the continental United States has been taken for human use. That leaves only 5% for all the other species, and the complex interactions between them that lead to ecosystem services. There is simply not enough space for nature to sustain itself and provide enough services for a growing human population.

Parks are too far away.

Some of the studies that examined the effects of nearby nature on human health and well-being were conducted in a Chicago neighborhood that lies within two miles of Lake Michigan and some of the largest city parks in the United States. Despite the fact that all the people in the studies had easy access to this extensive urban nature, differences in the amount of nature right outside their homes still had an effect on them.

We need nature in our yards.

There are 45 million acres of turf grass in the United States. If just half of that were turned into natural landscapes, it would be like increasing our national parks system by more than 25%. While each natural yard is small, together they form corridors connecting larger natural areas. Corridors help species move around, stabilizing populations and keeping ecosystems healthy and functioning.

Next time you walk in a park or look at pictures of nature, notice how you feel. Imagine feeling that way every time you looked out the windows of your own home!

Why can’t nature stay in parks?

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