two zebras on grass field
Refereed Articles

Non-material contributions of wildlife to human well-being: a systematic review

Joel Methorst, Ugo Arbieu, Aletta Bonn, Katrin Böhning-Gaese, Thomas Müller (2020),
Environmental Research Letters 15(9), 093005.

Wildlife has important effects on human well-being, ranging from beneficial contributions to life threatening interactions. Here, we systematically reviewed publications of both positive and negative non-material contributions of wildlife to people (WCP) for different taxonomic groups (birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians) and dimensions of human well-being such as health, social well-being, identity and spirituality. Overall, the majority of studies reported negative WCP, such as feelings of insecurity or injuries. However, over the last decade the number of publications on positive WCP such as good mental health, positive emotions or learning increased, mainly in the Global North. These spatial and temporal patterns may hint towards normative influences that drive the relative proportion of reported WCP. However, these normative influences are not yet well understood and future research should examine potential biases by conducting policy assessments or surveys among researchers to understand drivers and motivations behind their research questions. We found almost no joint assessments of positive and negative WCP for any wildlife species. Studies also showed taxon-specific differences in WCP outcomes, with predominantly positive WCP reported for birds and predominantly negative WCP published for mammals or reptiles. Physical health was the most dominant aspect of well-being studied and affected by WCP while other well-being dimensions such as social well-being, learning or identity were less frequently covered in the literature. Future studies should jointly evaluate positive and negative effects of wildlife on human well-being and implement multi-taxon approaches to obtain a more balanced and comprehensive understanding of WCP. These assessments of WCP will provide actionable science outcomes that will shape human-wildlife coexistence and promote human health and well-being.

Our authors

External authors

Ugo Arbieu

Aletta Bonn

Katrin Böhning-Gaese

Thomas Müller