Research Highlights: This review gives an overview of existing literature on the emerging topic of human wellbeing-forest contact nexus and provides a preliminary framework linking forests to wellbeing by highlighting key variables affecting this relationship. Background and Objectives: Existing literature reveals the psychological, physiological and social wellbeing benefits of contact with forest ecosystems; however, the role of forests in this relationship remains largely unexplored. The objectives of this review are twofold: (i) to provide an overview of the contributions of forest experiences to human wellbeing and the related interplay with forest ecosystems and (ii) to identify knowledge gaps to inform future research and systematize information available for forest managers and planners to support the development of effective forest-based initiatives. Materials and Methods: A scoping review was performed with a five-phase method integrating a systematic approach on Scopus, Web of Science and PubMed databases and snowball search. Studies were analyzed using a descriptive-analytical method. Results: Overall, 93 papers were included in the review. These are mainly from health-related sciences providing limited information for forest managers, planners and practitioners. Four main underlying variables of the forest-wellbeing relationship are identified: interaction, forest features, sensorial dimension of the forest and individual traits and reactions. Conclusions: Forest-based initiatives provide good opportunities for supporting public health and time spent in contact with forests seems to have a “health-bonus”. Whether and to what extent forest management can contribute to this is still poorly investigated. There is the need to better study causal relationships between specific forest features, type of interactions, frequency and “dose” of experiences, individual reactions and needs and wellbeing effects to maximize benefits from forest-based initiatives.
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