Valuing the cultural services from urban blue-space ecosystems in Japanese megacities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic is an outstanding global threat for both human health and well-being. Under the pandemic, green spaces are known to mitigate the physical/mental stress of urban people. However, it remains unclarified how blue spaces such as coastal and river areas play a role in healing urban people's health and well-being during the pandemic. Here, conducting an online-based survey in Japanese megacities, with 5756 responses received from residents of Tokyo, Yokohama, Osaka and Kobe, we examined the effects of personal characteristics of city residents on their visitation frequencies to blue spaces during and after the emergency periods, and compared visitation purposes and motivation between the coastal and river areas. Cumulative linear modelling revealed that people with more nature experiences in childhood and higher satisfaction of neighbourhood coasts and rivers visited urban blue spaces more frequently. In addition, those who lived with pre-school and primary school children also visited urban blue spaces more frequently than those without, likely for letting them play in blue spaces. These people primarily visited them to decrease their stress and to maintain their health by contacting with nature while keeping social distance to avoid being infected. Moreover, the visitation purpose and motivation partly differed between the coastal and river areas, which could be explained by the accessibility to and perception of blue spaces for urban people. The present study implies that, as well as green spaces, blue spaces provided places that people in urban areas could use to mitigate their stress and disorder during the pandemic. Our findings underpin the necessity of preserving both of them in urban planning for further benefits relating to health and well-being.