Multifunctional landscapes – recreation and wellbeing

Access to the countryside is an important factor for our physical and mental wellbeing as well as having implications for our cultural identity and heritage. How and where we are able to make use of outdoor space is impacted by the many different ways land is used for things like farming, forestry, reservoirs or habitat conservation.

When making decisions about how to use land, it’s important to consider its potential benefit to people. For example, an accessible woodland will be more valuable for recreation if it’s situated near a town or city with good transport links than if it’s in a remote area. However, it’s not always appropriate for land to be open to the public. Some species need solitude to thrive and while most crops and livestock will tolerate footpaths running through them, they cannot be roamed freely.

How do we balance the needs for recreation against other pressing needs such as food production, biodiversity, water quality, carbon sequestration and protection from floods, droughts and wildfires?

The Royal Society’s Multifunctional Landscapes report advises on the use of science to increase the productivity of land and makes recommendations on the data, innovation, skills and policy required to create landscapes which meet society’s many needs efficiently and sustainably.