The contribution of trees, woods and forests to quality of life

What role do trees, woods and greenspace play in programmes to improve our quality of life?


Forest Research reviewed research and policy perspectives regarding the social and community benefits provided by greenspace. The team also created a full inventory of all the social evidence from practical programmes in the UK which show how trees and woodland support urban regeneration, place-making and place-shaping.

Key findings


  • Different agencies emphasise and measure the influence of trees, woods and greenspace in different ways
  • Terminology and concepts have different meanings, especially the concept of ‘place’ between Scotland, Wales and England
  • Indicators and measurement frameworks require more refinement and conceptual development, although the level of this problem varies between the concepts, between the three countries, and between forestry and other policy areas
  • There is no consensus on the concept of ‘place’ within UK public forestry sector
  • The concepts of community cohesion and social capital have received limited attention in forestry
  • Research is needed to assess which indicators are suitable for the forestry sector and to develop suitable indicators to measure the influence of woodland on community capacity
  • More work is required to measure how woodlands affect people’s perceptions of the places they live in
  • Monitoring and evaluation for forestry programmes with a community and/or place-making agenda have been generally poor, lacking baseline data and robust frameworks


  • Located woodlands close to where people live to secure maximum social benefits
  • Trees and woods are an important part of cultural identity: projects, activities and events in urban woodlands can provide a useful expression of local identity and encourage a sense of ownership over wooded places
  • Strong evidence that woodlands provide restorative and therapeutic benefits and improve cognitive functioning
  • Mixed evidence that trees and woods increase or improve physical exercise
  • Trees help to improve perceptions of place, helping to increase residential property values and an enhanced willingness to pay for goods and services
  • Concerns about safety, crime and anti-social behaviour act as a barrier to woodland access for many people, especially women, those from an ethnic background and children
  • Woodlands and woodland projects help to build a stronger sense of belonging, improve social inclusion and community cohesion, and enhance community capacity to achieve shared goals through increased social capital


Funders and partners

Commissioned and funded by the Forestry Commission.


Amy Stewart