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How Should Forests Be Characterized in Regard to Human Health? Evidence from Existing Literature

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Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (ICTA), Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB), Z Building, ICTA-ICP, Carrer de les Columnes, UAB Campus, Bellaterra (Cerdanyola del Vallès), 08193 Barcelona, Spain
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Environment and Human Health Laboratory (EH2 Lab), Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB), 08193 Bellaterra, Spain
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CREAF, Campus Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Cerdanyola del Vallès, Barcelona, 08193 Catalonia, Spain
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CSIC, Global Ecology Unit CREAF-CSIC-UAB, Bellaterra, Barcelona, 08193 Catalonia, Spain
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Geography Department, Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB), B building, UAB Campus, Bellaterra (Cerdanyola del Vallès), 08193 Barcelona, Spain
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Garrotxa Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit (PEHSU Garrotxa), Garrotxa Region Pediatric Team, Olot and Garrotxa Region Hospital, Olot, 1780 Catalonia, Spain
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Committee on Environmental Health, Spanish Pediatrics Association, 28009 Madrid, Spain
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Forest Science and Technology Center of Catalonia, Ctra. de St. Llorenç de Morunys, km 2, 25280 Solsona, Spain
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Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(3), 1027; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17031027
Received: 19 December 2019 / Revised: 29 January 2020 / Accepted: 31 January 2020 / Published: 6 February 2020
(This article belongs to the Section Ecology and the Environment)
The potential of forests as a source of health has been addressed by the scientific community and is now being considered in national forest strategies, management plans and policies. Studies identifying the mechanisms by which forest characteristics may induce these effects on human health are nevertheless scarce. This systematic review of literature on forests and human health with real-life human exposure was conducted to assess the extent to which forests have been studied and described in detail and the extent to which relationships between forest variables and health effects have been reported. The analysis underlines the lack of forest descriptions in 19.35% of the 62 studies selected for review as well as the high heterogeneity of forest variables’ description. Patterns among the articles could not be identified correlating the broader forest variable (forest type) and the most studied health variables identified (blood pressure, pulse rate or/and cortisol levels). These findings, together with previous ex situ researches, suggest the need to ameliorate and incorporate more accurate descriptions of forest variables within human health studies to provide data for forest management and the potential use of these habitats for preventive medicine and clinical practice guidelines. View Full-Text
Keywords: forest exposure; shinrin-yoku; forest characterization; human health; forest management; preventive medicine forest exposure; shinrin-yoku; forest characterization; human health; forest management; preventive medicine
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Bach Pagès, A.; Peñuelas, J.; Clarà, J.; Llusià, J.; Campillo i López, F.; Maneja, R. How Should Forests Be Characterized in Regard to Human Health? Evidence from Existing Literature. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17, 1027.

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