What informs human-nature connection? An exploration of factors in the context of urban park visitors and wildlife.

Published online
25 Mar 2024
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
People and Nature

Hursh, S. H. & Perry, E. & Drake, D.
Contact email(s)
hayeshursh@wisc.edu & eeperry@msu.edu

Publication language
USA & Wisconsin


Human-nature connection (HNC) is a concept derived from investigating the formulation and extent of an individual's identification with the natural world. This relationship is often characterized as an emotional bond to nature that develops from the contextualized, physical interactions of an individual, beginning in childhood. This outcome presents complexity in evaluating the development of HNC but suggests optimism in the pathways for enhancing lifelong HNC. As urban populations increase, there is a growing recognition worldwide of the potential for urban green space to cultivate HNC and thus shape the environmental identity of urban residents. The results of an online survey of 560 visitors to three community parks (managed primarily to provide a variety of physical, social and cultural opportunities) and three conservation parks (managed primarily to protect native plants and wildlife) in Madison, Wisconsin, USA, were used to investigate HNC. Linear mixed effects models evaluated visitors' HNC as a function of their (1) literacy and sentiment about wildlife species, (2) park experience, (3) number and frequency of nine childhood and adult recreation experiences, and (4) demographics. Across the park response groups, the number and frequency of childhood and adult recreation experiences was significantly associated with HNC, and this positive association persisted in multiple recreation activities. Furthermore, species literacy and sentiment, visiting a park for 'Nature', and frequent and extended visitation also was significantly associated with HNC by park type. Our research demonstrates the importance of lifelong recreation experiences in the development and enhancement of HNC and provides evidence for differences in the expression of HNC associated with particular attributes of urban park visitors and their views of wildlife.

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