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Effect on Social Interactions

Ecosystems influence the types and qualities of social relationships and interactions found in a particular place.


Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Service Category

Cultural Services


What is effect on social interactions and how is it derived?

The diversity of ecosystems in SEQ provides diverse social opportunities for people, enabling those with common interests to interact in a positive environment.

Ecosystems provide places that facilitate positive social interaction, both between close friends and family and casual social interaction. For example, in city neighbourhoods, research has shown common spaces with trees and greenery were preferred by residents over barren spaces, and the presence of greenery led to greater use of common spaces and face to face social contact. Casual face to face contact provides opportunities for the development of social relationships, and neighbours with face to face contact are more likely to develop and maintain social ties. Similarly, residents in coastal communities were found to be more likely to visit, and visited more often, when coastal waterways were perceived to be in better condition; and residents who visited waterways more often had greater casual social interaction with others, leading to wider social networks and improved quality of life.

Table 1 below presents the magnitude different ecosystem functions contribute to the provision of this service (relative to other ecosystem functions). Effect on social interactions is an ecosystem service derived from the functioning of an ecosystem as a whole, rather than one or more particular ecosystem components. However, aspects of the ecosystem that influence the perception of the ecosystem by people, or that influence how people can use the ecosystem, are likely to have greater importance in the provision of the service. For example, ecosystems that are perceived to be in good condition or which provide opportunities for recreation or interaction are likely to be perceived as better places for visiting.

Waste treatment, water regulation, gas regulation, disturbance regulation and climate regulation contribute to maintaining the condition of the ecosystem. Provision of  shade and shelter and landscape opportunity provide places that are interesting or enjoyable to visit. Genetic resources and genetic diversity contribute to the resilience and amenity of an ecosystem and are related to a high diversity of species. Supporting habitats may provide opportunities for wildlife viewing. Collection or hunting of food is often undertaken in groups and contributes to group sharing and social interaction. Other ecosystem functions, although necessary for the maintenance of the ecosystem, are less likely to impact on people’s perceptions or use of an ecosystem as a place for interaction.


Table 1:The relative magnitude (to other ecosystem functions) each ecosystem function contributes to Effect on Social Interactions.

Ecosystem Service Category Ecosystem Function 0
Regulating Functions
Gas Regulation

Climate Regulation

Disturbance Regulation

Water Regulation

Soil Retention

Nutrient Regulation

Waste Treatment and Assimilation


Biological Control

Barrier Effect of Vegetation

Supporting Functions
Supporting Habitats

Soil Formation

Provisioning Functions

Raw Materials

Water Supply

Genetic Resources

Provision of Shade and Shelter

Pharmacological Resources

Cultural Functions
Landscape Opportunity


ARE HUMAN INPUTS REQUIRED TO FACILITATE effect on social interactions?

Healthy ecosystems provide space for healthy relationships.

In agricultural areas landholders may come together to assist each other with monitoring and managing the land.

Ecosystems provide places of opportunity for people to interact regardless of whether people actually visit these places for such activities. It is likely however that most, if not all, of this service is obtained when people visit the ecosystem. It is possible that some benefit in the form of positive social interaction may be obtained from talking about a particular place or ecosystem, particularly after a visit, but knowledge of a particular ecosystem without visiting that ecosystem is not likely to contribute significantly to maintaining positive social interactions.

Provision or use of this service is likely to be facilitated by aspects of ecosystems and human inputs that contribute to the amenity of an ecosystem for visiting, without degrading the ability of the ecosystem to maintain itself, or degrading the condition of the system. Probably the most important human inputs are those that facilitate access to an ecosystem. In addition, the provision of walkways, tables, shelter, toilets etc in a park will make it more suitable for a greater variety of visitors, while provision of facilities such as recreation equipment may facilitate further social interaction. In an aquatic system, provision of boat access points and mooring points may facilitate greater use. Interpretative information could also encourage casual social interaction between visitors.


Are there any barriers to people receiving this ecosystem service and its benefits?

The main barrier preventing use of this service is distance to the ecosystem providing the service. Over-use of a particular location could also contribute to negative social interactions arising from crowding and competition for use of the resource.

This ecosystem service provides many benefits that contribute both directly and indirectly to the well-being of the SEQ community. The Constituents of Well-being this ecosystem service contributes to are presented in Table 2 below. Further information on these constituents and how ecosystem services contribute to them can be obtained by clicking on the links in the table.

Table 2:The relative magnitude (to other ecosystem services) Effect on Social Interactions contributes to each constituent of well-being.

Well-being Category Constituent of Well-being 0
Physical Health            
Mental Health            
Secure and Continuous Supply of Services            
Security of Person            
Security of Health            
Secure Access to Services            
Security of Property            
Good Social Relations
Family Cohesion            
Community and Social Cohesion            
Freedom of Choice and Action
Social and Economic Freedom            
Self Actualisation            




An indicator for the effect on social interactions could include visitor statistics for specific locations coupled with information on visitor satisfaction and the extent to which various features of the location contributed to satisfaction.

Links to other publications and websites

Attractive Shared Spaces
Science Daily - Time in Nature
Healthy Spaces and Places
Man-Environment Interactions
The Space Wasters

It is possible to quantify the amount and quality of social interaction, extent of social networks and the contribution of these to well-being. Some information on this may be available from generic well-being surveys, particularly if they include information on social capital. Information on the extent to which this service are being utilised could be inferred from information such as visitor statistics for specific locations, particularly if coupled with information on satisfaction or enjoyment of the experience and the extent to which various features of the location contributed to this.

Assessing the extent to which a particular ecosystem or several ecosystems provide this service would require the development of a specific methodology and data collection, linking information on ecosystem visitation, social interaction and social networks, and general well-being. Festivals held to celebrate a location or ecosystem would also be indicators of this service.


How is this ecosystem service currently managed in SEQ?

Management of this ecosystem service in natural or semi-natural ecosystems would involve managing access at an appropriate level, providing facilities to encourage use and social interaction as appropriate (e.g. social interaction in a substantially natural system would be expected to be at a minimum), and generally maintaining the condition of the ecosystem. In a more developed setting, principles of urban design and landscape architecture can be used to create or manage systems with human input that are designed to facilitate interactions.

This service is not exhaustible in the sense that the provision of a certain level of 'effect on social interaction' does not preclude the provision of further effects. However, the condition of the ecosystem providing the service can be negatively impacted through overuse, overcrowding or overuse in a particular location at a particular time. Provision of the service can therefore be managed through normal management of the condition of the ecosystem as a whole. Management is undertaken by landowners; there is no institution with responsibility for overall management of this service.