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Sustainability 2017, 9(9), 1628;

Aesthetic and Spiritual Ecosystem Services Provided by Urban Sacred Sites

Department of Environmental Science, Rhodes University, Grahamstown 6140, South Africa
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 11 August 2017 / Revised: 8 September 2017 / Accepted: 9 September 2017 / Published: 13 September 2017
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The range and use of ecosystem services provided by urban sacred sites has hardly been considered in studies of urban ecology, sustainability and human wellbeing. This paper examines the perceived ecosystem services supplied by green spaces or gardens associated with places of religious worship and appreciated by worshippers in a mid-sized town in South Africa. A questionnaire with open, closed and Likert scale questions was administered at 30 places of worship (25 with gardens and five without). Respondents identified a wide diversity of ecosystem services provided by gardens, with social ones being more recognized than ecological, and economic services the least. Approximately two-thirds of respondents visited a sacred site garden weekly or more often. The majority of respondents (96%) felt that a garden was necessary because it added to their feelings of connection with God, or helped them relax and so be better able to concentrate, and 54% stated that a garden enhanced their overall spiritual experience. Regression analysis revealed that aesthetic appreciation of a garden was significantly related to woody plant species richness, number and basal area in the garden. On the other hand, spiritual experience was positively related to woody plant basal area, but not species richness nor tree number. Neither size of the garden, nor number of years the respondents had been vising a particular sacred site had any influence on the rated spiritual or aesthetic experiences. These results reveal the widely appreciated ecosystem services provided by urban sacred spaces and their centrality in enhancing spiritual satisfaction for some. View Full-Text
Keywords: church gardens; cultural services; plant abundance; species richness; spiritual services church gardens; cultural services; plant abundance; species richness; spiritual services

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De Lacy, P.; Shackleton, C. Aesthetic and Spiritual Ecosystem Services Provided by Urban Sacred Sites. Sustainability 2017, 9, 1628.

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