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Natural Awakenings SW PA, Greater Pittsburgh

Nature Needs More Space

Crowded group of penguins

ndrej Prosicky/

All over the world, plants and animals are increasingly threatened by human activities and habitat encroachment. A 2019 study published in Science News estimates that 1 million species face extinction within decades. The natural world makes the planet livable by cleaning the air, filtering water, cycling carbon dioxide and pollinating crops. To impede biodiversity loss, governments are working to set aside more space for natural habitats. The UN Convention on Biodiversity, which is now under consideration, seeks to designate 30 percent of land and sea as protected by 2030 and 50 percent by 2050 in order to revive ecosystems and safeguard the diversity of species on Earth. Humans have altered more than three-quarters of Earth’s surface, and of the 14 terrestrial biomes, such as tropical rainforest, tundra or desert, eight retain less than 10 percent of undeveloped wilderness, according to a 2016 study in Current Biology. Many species have already vanished. 
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Global Brief: Natural Thinking Spending Time in Nature Increases Cognitive Performance
More of our time is spent indoors than ever before. One of the ways by which nature may improve cognitive function (i.e. the acquisition of and goal-oriented use of knowledge) is by improving memory formation and recall, specifically that of short-term or working memory, and goal-oriented or directed attention; the kind that requires focused effort. By comparing and contrasting 13 studies, a team of researchers has shed light on this complex interaction in research published in Frontiers in Psychology. The studies used the backwards digit span task, which requires participants to invert a series of numbers and repeat them back. All demonstrated significantly improved cognition in nature as compared to urban environments. The benefits of studies like this are two-fold: not only are we learning more about how the brain interacts with its environment, but also how to leverage this interaction to lead healthier, more productive and happier lives.
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