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Dog Walkers’ Views of Urban Biodiversity across Five European Cities

Fischer, Leonie K.; Kowarik, Ingo

Contact with nature makes people feel better, live healthier and act more environmentally-friendly. We hypothesized that dog walking, an omnipresent people–nature interaction in cities, translates to a more positive view of urban nature and, subsequently, to more support for conservation initiatives. Insights into such positive side-effects of dog walking are relevant for dog-related urban policies that often focus on negative impacts of dogs (e.g., health risks, disturbance of wildlife). Based on a field survey in five European cities (N = 3717), we analyzed if people who walked dogs regularly valued four urban ecosystem types (park meadows, wastelands, streetscapes, forests), and the plant species diversity within, differently from other people. Opposite to our hypothesis, participants from both groups valued urban ecosystems and their biodiversity very similarly across the cities. Thus, our study does not confirm that regular dog walkers value natural elements more than other people. It thus remains an important challenge for urban planners to balance services and disservices of dog walking in urban greenspaces.
Published in: Sustainability, 10.3390/su12093507, MDPI