Beyond “bluespace” and “greenspace”: A narrative review of possible health benefits from exposure to other natural landscapes

Hansen Li, Matthew H.E.M. Browning, Alessandro Rigolon, Lincoln R. Larson, Derrick Taff, S. M. Labib, Jacob Benfield, Shuai Yuan, Olivia McAnirlin, Nazanin Hatami, Peter H. Kahn

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Numerous studies have highlighted the physical and mental health benefits of contact with nature, typically in landscapes characterized by plants (i.e., “greenspace”) and water (i.e., “bluespace”). However, natural landscapes are not always green or blue, and the effects of other landscapes are worth attention. This narrative review attempts to overcome this limitation of past research. Rather than focusing on colors, we propose that natural landscapes are composed of at least one of three components: (1) plants (e.g., trees, flowering plants, grasses, sedges, mosses, ferns, and algae), (2) water (e.g., rivers, canals, lakes, and oceans), and/or (3) rocks and minerals, including soil. Landscapes not dominated by plants or liquid-state water include those with abundant solid-state water (e.g., polar spaces) and rocks or minerals (e.g., deserts and caves). Possible health benefits of solid-state water or rock/mineral dominated landscapes include both shorter-term (e.g., viewing images) and longer-term (e.g., living in these landscapes) exposure durations. Reported benefits span improved emotional and mental states and medical treatment resources for respiratory conditions and allergies. Mechanisms underlying the health benefits of exposure consist of commonly discussed theories in the “greenspace” and “bluespace” literature (i.e., instoration and restoration) as well as less discussed pathways in that literature (i.e., post-traumatic growth, self-determination, supportive environment theory, and place attachment). This is the first review to draw attention to the potential salutogenic value of natural landscapes beyond “greenspace” and “bluespace.” It is also among the first to highlight the limitations and confusion that result from classifying natural landscapes using color. Since the extant literature on natural landscapes - beyond those with abundant plants or liquid-state water - is limited in regard to quantity and quality, additional research is needed to understand their restorative potential and therapeutic possibilities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number159292
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Jan 15 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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