Acting as a national inter- and transdisciplinary network, the forum promotes knowledge and discourse about landscape and landscape-changing processes. It advocates sustainable design, development and safety concepts. The forum focuses on the Alps as well as parks and protected areas.more

Image: Naturmotive, stock-adobe.commore

Health and Landscape

Kernthema FoLAP: Gesundheit und Landschaft
Image: Hansjakob Fehr, 1kilo

How is it possible to conserve and develop landscapes that promote physical and mental health without impairing the landscape quality? This question addresses not only demographic developments such as increased ageing, but also the requirements of a multi-cultural population in respect of the landscape.

If we are to feel well and stay healthy, we need attractive places where we can meet other people; however, we should also be able to retreat to a quiet place where we can relax, shielded from noise, disturbing odours and constant lighting. We also need near-natural spaces or areas with an urban character that invite us to take exercise and engage in sport.
A varied landscape that enables us to satisfy our needs for social interaction, rest and physical activity thus makes a significant contribution to healthcare and also to equal opportunities for the population. These factors make it important for this country to have architecturally well-designed urban neighbourhoods as well as green spaces that are close to nature outside the cities, so we can enjoy diverse experiences of nature.

Demands on the landscape and its use are changing; and this change gained even more momentum during the pandemic. It is difficult to assess how (for example) forest parties or the trend towards more outdoor activities will have repercussions for Health and Landscape in the longer term. It will be critically important to create and maintain suitable landscape spaces. This will not only involve developing the necessary spatial and landscape planning instruments; it will also require us to define rules that prevent usage from placing too much pressure on the landscape and thus damaging it.

Numerous landscape elements also strengthen our health by eliminating harmful effects: trees and soil filter out pollutants, preventing them from penetrating the air or water. Rich biodiversity can also benefit health – for example, by providing raw materials for medical remedies or preventing the uninhibited propagation of organisms that can transmit diseases.
Landscape qualities also play a key role in response to global warming: shade-giving trees and parks, for instance, can make a decisive contribution towards cooling down urban heat islands.

Collaboration among multiple authorities is an essential factor in addressing the impact of landscape on health. This is because urban, spatial and transport planners, the energy industry, food production, environmental protection, the healthcare sector and many other players are all required to participate. The example of mobility illustrates the closely intertwined relationships among different areas of policy: on the one hand, private car traffic emits exhaust fumes and particulate matter, causes noise, pollutes soil and water due to tyre abrasion and thus ultimately presents a threat to human health. But on the other hand, many people use their cars in their leisure time to drive into the countryside and go hiking or engage in other recreational activities in a green environment. The gaping contradiction between the pursuit of health-promoting relaxation and health-damaging mobility can be resolved thanks to forms of non-motorised transport. Anyone who uses a bicycle will combine mobility with physical fitness.

The pathogenic effect of certain environmental influences such as air pollutants has been medically proven. However, there has been far less investigation of the impact of landscape qualities on our health, so FoLAP sees a major need for research here. For example, we do not know which qualities of the landscape that can be perceived with the senses have the ability to improve preventive healthcare, and to what extent. It is also unclear whether certain characteristics of the landscape can produce different impacts on the health of different population groups – such as children, older people, or those with a migration background. Light should also be shed on the importance of landscape changes in relation to health, and on the effects that the alienation from nature of certain groups of the population has on their health.
FoLAP also intends to draw attention to the consequences for landscape of more recent health trends. How, for example, could changed dietary habits be reflected in the landscape? Furthermore, it is unclear which landscape services will be in greater demand if more people attach greater importance to health aspects in their everyday lives than in the past.

The realisation that landscape has major importance for human health has been incorporated into various political strategies. The European Landscape Convention, for instance, designates landscape as a key element in the wellbeing of individuals and society.

The Swiss Landscape Concept (SLC) also states that attractive landscape and the experience of nature motivate many people to engage in sport and take exercise. Likewise, the Federal Council's health policy strategy requires that the quality of nature and landscape should be maintained because they contribute to the structural promotion of health.

Authors: Evelyn Coleman Brantschen (HAFL), Dominik Siegrist (Fachhochschule OST), Norman Backhaus (UZH).


ARE Interview Sabina Ruff, Inhaberin des Beratungsbüros «Laboratorium für Zukunftsgestaltung» in Zürich

Notes: In its five core topics (Landscape and Health, Landscape Culture, Lifestyles and Landscape, Climate Protection and Landscape, and Spatial Relationships), FoLAP has identified aspects where action is most needed in terms of sustainable landscape development. To promote political discourse and the social transformation process, there is a need not only to pool existing knowledge but also to invest more extensive effort in additional research and to step up the dialogue between research and practice. FoLAP understands the core topics as its own mission, and a mission for its community: they therefore appear on FoLAP's agenda as an invitation to institutions and players to become actively involved in these topic areas.

Political and economic relevance and topicality of the subject

European Landscape Convention (ELC): Landscape represents a key element in the wellbeing of individuals and of society.

Swiss Landscape Concept (SLC): Health, exercise and sport: Attractive landscapes and the experience of nature are key motivations for large numbers of people to engage in sport and exercise.

  • Strengthening coordination and cooperation between the promotion of physical activities/sports and landscape policy (Objective 3.A)
  • Health promotion in settlement and local recreational areas (Objective 3.B)
  • Encouraging responsible behaviour (Objective 3.C)

Swiss Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan

The Federal Council's health policy strategy

  • High quality of nature and landscape as a contribution to structural health promotion
  • Reduction of environment-related health risks (SR 7.1)
  • Preservation and promotion of the qualities of nature and landscape (SR 7.2)

Agricultural policy of the Swiss Federal Government

ValPar.CH – Werte der Ökologischen Infrastruktur in Schweizer Pärken (

Waldmonitoring soziokulturell Schweiz WaMos 3 (

Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IBPES)

Relevant key questions

  • Which physical characteristics of landscape can contribute (therapeutically) to healthcare / health promotion and improvement, and to what extent? Do certain landscape characteristics have different impacts on the health of different social groups (younger/older people, those with illnesses, families with children, people with a migration background or those affected by poverty, etc.)?
  • How do landscape changes impact health? What part is played here by the promotion of biodiversity, the promotion of landscape diversity, and/or sustainable landscape development?
  • What correlations are there between landscape and biodiversity, and how can these influence mental, physical and social health? (Keywords: 'co-benefits', dilution effect, amplification effect, infectious diseases transmitted by animals (zoonoses), non-transmissible diseases, 'One Health' approach).
  • Which policies and governance approaches take account of the landscape and its contribution to reducing environment-related health risks? Which of them are problematic? Which spatial and regional development models and/or strategies play a part in optimising the health impacts of landscapes? (Keywords: access to landscapes when there is a distance between residential/working areas and intact landscapes, mobility behaviour, non-motorised traffic network, range of healthcare services).
  • Are there socio-cultural differences in the perception and usage of landscape and, if so, do they result in landscape producing different impacts on health? For example: What effects does the alienation from nature of certain social groups have on their health?
  • Which types of landscape become particularly important in times of social crisis – also against the background of changing lifestyles? How does the usage of different types of landscape change in crisis periods (e.g. reduced mobility due to restrictions on going out)?
  • How did the population's behaviour and perception in relation to landscapes develop both during and after the coronavirus crisis (e.g. perception of everyday spaces)? Can sustained effects be identified (as regards frequency/duration and also type, e.g. increase in individual recreation in landscape as a consequence of distancing rules)? What lessons can be learned from this?
  • What effects on landscape and landscape quality result from increased usage pressure in crisis periods? What are the resultant effects on plant and animal habitats, and hence on the health impact of these landscapes? (Example – paradox: over-usage impairs precisely those landscape spaces that are relevant for recreation/recovery/health.)
  • Which concepts are needed in order to minimise these effects (keywords: spatial planning, visitor guidance/channelling)?
  • What (monetary) contribution to reducing healthcare costs is made by promoting biodiversity and the variety and quality of landscape?
  • What contribution can landscapes make to health? How is demand for landscape services changing due to an increased focus on health aspects?
  • What potential is there in the valorisation of landscape health services (e.g. in parks)?
  • Health trends and effects on the landscape
  • How do nutrition and health trends impact the diversity and quality of landscape?

How do nutrition and health trends impact the diversity and quality of landscape?

On request, we will send you the complete core topic papers including references to sources. (The core topic papers are expanded and edited from time to time.)
Write to us at