Master of Environmental Studies (MES)
Geography & Environmental Studies
Environmental Resource Management
Faculty of Arts
Christopher J. Lemieux
Sean T. Doherty
The human health and well-being benefits associated with nature contact is well established. Parks and other forms of protected areas contribute significantly to these benefits by providing access to nature. However, limited research has been done on how different environments within protected areas (e.g., forests, coasts, areas being restored) and the perceived quality (i.e., ecological integrity) of these environments affect the health and well-being outcomes of visitors. This study builds on previous work to better understand how visitor experiences provided by diverse natural and built environments in Pinery Provincial Park affect perceived restorative outcomes as one aspect of health and well-being, using a self-reported in-situ survey. Tablet computers were used to capture visitor responses at intercept points in different ecosites, identified using Ecological Land Classification (ELC) data. The survey included a modified Restorative Outcome Scale (ROS) to measure participant’s well-being and mood as well as scale questions concerning perceived ecological integrity and species richness, socio-demographics, and overall health factors. Results revealed high overall restorative outcomes from contact with nature in the park. The type of environment and length of stay had little influence on visitor’s perceived restorative outcomes. However, restorative outcomes were perceived to be greater by women than men. Visitors reported high restorative outcomes irrespective of their self-reported state of mental and physical health. The perceived integrity of the environment had the greatest impact on reported outcomes. Visitors who perceived an environment to have higher ecological integrity, species richness, or naturalness also reported higher restorative outcomes. These results underscore the important links between human health and ecological integrity and point to a need to better understand the synergies between managing for ecological integrity and visitor experiences in protected areas.
Key Words: restorative outcomes; ecological integrity; environmental quality; parks and protected areas; park management; perceptions
Reining, Catherine E., "Does perceived ecological integrity affect restorative health outcomes? An examination of visitor experiences in diverse environments in an Ontario Protected Area" (2019). Theses and Dissertations (Comprehensive). 2202.