Why are we so Connected to Savannas?

The African savanna, a habitat type defined as open grasslands with scattered stands of trees and dense woods in the low valleys and along waterways, is very similar to the historic and restored oak savannas of Fontenelle Forest. In some studies, researchers found that grassy, tree-dotted savannas apparently prevailed “for all of the last 6 million years in the environments in eastern Africa where some of the most significant early human fossils were found,” said geochemist Thure Cerling at the University of Utah….”Wherever we find human ancestors, we find evidence for open habitats similar to savannas — much more open and savanna-like than forested,” Cerling said. (1)

Not only are humans connected to savannas from an evolutionary and historical perspective, research indicates they connect psychologically and physiologically as well. “When humans are offered a choice of landscapes, people react most positively to savanna-like settings, a finding that is consistent across every
culture studied”. (2)

The thinking is that the restorative benefits of being in or viewing a savanna-like setting is very positive and helps people recover from stress better. People feel more tranquil, peaceful, or relaxed, they have decreased fear and anger, and have improved alertness,and cognitive performance.

The restoration of Fontenelle Forest’s Oak Savannas and Woodlands is vital not only for improving biological diversity; it also has important implications for humans that visit our amazing and unique landscape. Next time you are feeling stressed, a walk around the Third Loop of the boardwalk or along Ridge Trail, two restored savanna areas, may be just what the doctor ordered. We hope you continue to support the connection between humans and savannas by embracing our Oak Savanna and Woodland restoration efforts for years to come.

– Jeanine Lackey, Director of Research and Stewardship, and Matt Miller, Restoration Biologist

1). Nature 476, 51–56 (04 August 2011) Woody cover and hominin environments in the past 6 million years. Thure E. Cerling, Jonathan G. Wynn, Samuel A. Andanje, Michael I. Bird, David Kimutai Korir, Naomi E. Levin, William Mace, Anthony N. Macharia, Jay Quade & Christopher H. Remien

2). Rebuilding the Unity of Health and the Environment: A New Vision of Environmental Health for the 21st Century. Institute of Medicine. Washington, DC: National Academies Press; 2001.

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