Street trees and mental health: developing systems thinking-informed hypotheses using causal loop diagrammes

28-04-2023 / hannes.schwaiger

Paper: Street trees and mental health –developing systems thinking-informed hypotheses using casual loop diagrammes

At REGREEN, we believe in the power of nature-based solutions (NBS) to promote urban liveability and well-being. That’s why we’re excited to share a recent REGREEN paper led by Miriam R. Alvarado, and co-authored by Rebecca Lovell, Cornelia Guell, Tim Taylor, James Fullam, Ruth Garside, Marianne Zandersen and Benedict W. Wheeler and co-developed with our European Urban Living Labs in Aarhus, Paris Region and Velika Gorica. We use systems thinking to develop hypotheses on the relationship between street trees and mental health, which are important when planning new street trees.

Check out the open-access paper here:

Using causal loop diagraming (CLD), we integrate qualitative and quantitative evidence to identify key system structures and develop three systems thinking-informed hypotheses:

#1 although there are many ways in which street trees may improve mental health, tree health is critical in realizing many of these benefits and minimizing dis-benefits;

#2 communities, which have benefited from street trees in the past are more likely to be ble to advocate for additional trees, further entrenching historical inequities in street tree distribution; and

#3 efforts to address these inequities through new tree planting initiatives may ultimately fail or even exacerbate existing challenges if they do not include sustained.

By using a systems thinking lens, we hope to offer policy-relevant hypotheses to guide future research on the co-benefits of street trees for mental health. It’s an important read for anyone interested in health and well-being, urban planning, or systems science, and aligns with the goals of the REGREEN project to promote urban liveability through nature-based solutions.


Tree health is critical for street trees to impact mental health  (one aspect of the Causal Loop Diagramme)