The degradation of urban natural spaces reduces their ability to benefit human populations. Restoration can support urban sustainability by improving both the ecological health of these spaces and the public benefits they provide, but studies rarely combine both perspectives. We assessed the ecological and social benefits of an urban river restoration project relative to an unrestored river on the basis of the following four principles: Increasing ecological integrity; benefitting and engaging society; taking account of the past and future; and sustainability. Ecological health at each site was assessed by analyzing macroinvertebrate samples. The social benefits were measured by conducting focus groups with local users of green spaces surrounding the two rivers and comparing their responses. Restoration increased the ecological health of the river and was viewed positively by users, enhancing the river as a space to visit for psychological benefits. However, there were concerns over the erasure of the cultural heritage of the area. Our findings indicate that the long-term sustainability of restoration projects, particularly in urban areas, can be enhanced by integrating ecological and social dimensions. Although short-term ecological improvements may be small, they have the potential to provide a range of benefits for human populations.
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