More people than ever before are worried about threats to the natural environment, new official statistics have found.
Natural England’s annual Monitor of Engagement with the Natural Environment (MENE) survey revealed that nine in 10 people are concerned about damage to nature.
Meanwhile, almost two-thirds (62%) are specifically worried about biodiversity loss – up 13 percentage points in five years.
The survey, described as the ‘world’s biggest scientific study of its kind’, also found that while people are spending more time outdoors than ever before, inequality in access persists as people living in deprived areas are less likely to regularly spend time outside.
Marian Spain, interim chief executive of Natural England, said: ‘The overwhelming evidence published today makes clear the priority the public give to investing in nature’s recovery.
‘Wildlife and greenspaces are hugely important for people, providing them with places to exercise, socialise, learn and experience the wonder of the natural world.
‘This research also underlines how important it is that we create new opportunities for people to connect with nature wherever they live and whatever their age.’
The MENE survey was first commissioned in 2009 and monitors changing trends in outdoor recreation, behaviour and attitudes.
It found that use of the natural environment is at its highest level ever, with people making almost four billion visits to green spaces in 2018/19.
Health and exercise was found to be the main reasons adults spent time outside, while green spaces in towns and cities were the most visited natural environments.
The survey revealed how most people experience the natural environment close to home, with most visits taken on foot and 44% of trips taken within 1 mile.
Urban green spaces are particularly important for people living in deprived areas, as children living in England’s 10% most deprived areas said they were most likely to visit them.
However, the survey also found that those children are 20% less likely to spend time outside than kids in more affluent areas.
In addition, only 56% of children from BAME backgrounds reported spending time outside once a week compared to 70% of white children.
The survey backs up the findings of a recent study which found that living close to green spaces is more important to wellbeing than income or employment.
The study concluded that green space within 300m of a home had the greatest influence on mental wellbeing.
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