In 2024, close to 56% of the world’s population – 4.4 billion people – lives in cities. These numbers are expected to increase considerably soon, with an estimate of 68% by 2050 and a whopping 85% by 2100. While urban living offers several social and economic opportunities, it also presents drawbacks such as a lack of community connection and detachment from nature. Interacting with natural elements within cities highlights humans’ interconnectedness with ecosystems, providing numerous benefits for both mental and physical well-being.

NATURELAB’s mission is to reestablish this connection while addressing socio-environmental challenges. By fostering interdisciplinary collaboration, the initiative aims to co-create a new way of living, protecting and advancing nature-based solutions (NBS) to contribute to the common welfare, urban balance and sustainable development. This Horizon Europe project proposes an integrative approach involving stakeholders from various fields of expertise to use these resources as the base to investigate the potential of nature-based therapies (NBT) in promoting health and well-being through a multidisciplinary perspective.

In parallel, NATURELAB will promote resilient communities by enhancing ecosystem services benefits, by addressing climate change challenges, and by contributing to enhanced biodiversity protection and urban water management whilst tackling in situ noise, air quality and solar radiation. The consortium is comprised of institutions from five countries across Europe and Latin America and will engage around 4000 participants in diverse urban, rural, and coastal areas to implement and analyse NBT interventions and related ecosystem services in diverse environments and conditions.


NATURELAB seeks to foster awareness and use of green and blue infrastructures as care providers, exploring the potential of nature-based therapies (NBT) and their uptake by the public healthcare sector. Through an integrative and innovative approach, it aims to develop validated NBT programmes tailored to individual's needs with a focus on health prevention and rehabilitation. By leveraging the multiple benefits of natural areas, such as climate resilience and biodiversity promotion, NATURELAB integrates Health and Societal Pillars, ensuring holistic and sustainable urban development. Collaborating with stakeholders and communities, it intends to enhance well-being and sustainability across rural, coastal, and urban regions.

Specific objectives

NATURELAB has eight specific objectives that were set to respond to the call text and are measured by suitable key performance indicators (KPIs), as described below. These objectives will be achieved through Work packages (WP) activities and the most relevant WP for each of them will be in charge of the main tasks to accomplish the expected results.

Objective 1

Develop methodologies and scientific evidence for the causal understanding of relationships between nature-based interventions and health and well-being benefits and their short-, medium- and long-term effects.

Objective 2

Identify mediators of the relationship between health and exposure to nature - e.g., age, gender, socio-economic status, cultural context, previous experience and contact with nature, and nature connectedness.

Objective 3

Define a framework of indicators to classify forests, urban parks, and horticultural and gardening according to their potential to contribute to health and well-being. Develop and provide guidelines for the design and exploitation of Healing Gardens.

Objective 4

Deliver tested and validated programmes for nature-based prescriptions using forests, urban parks and horticulture and gardening to address the specific health and well-being needs of people from different cultures, geographical location, age, gender, socio-economic status and other individual characteristics.

Objective 5

Promote the creation and management of nature areas, ecosystem services and biodiversity protection inside and around urban areas for multiple purposes: health and well-being benefits, citizens education, environmental sustainability, climate change adaptation and mitigation.

Objective 6

Make available and disseminate innovative educational and training materials and guidelines, exploring the opportunities for the creation of new jobs - Green Therapists and jobs in the horticulture and gardening industries.

Objective 7

Develop and provide tailored guidelines to policymakers, authorities, city designers, and the public and private healthcare, social and educational sectors for the adoption of NBT.

Objective 8

Establish tools and guidelines for the integration of nature-based care in the public health sector.


The expected outcomes of this study are:

At the end, close to 600 health professionals worldwide will receive the NATURELAB NBT programmes. Besides, around 8000-10000 innovative educational and training materials will be delivered. Among the many benefits the project development can promote, the fomentation of new jobs, such as therapists, horticulture & gardening industries will be analysed.

Work Plan

WP1 - Assessment and selection of green spaces with potential for improving health and well-being

WP1 aims to establish and validate a portfolio of key indicators and guidelines to characterise, design, protect and manage different types of nature spaces, promoting both environmental sustainability and NBT. 

The main objectives are: 

∙ Establish a validated portfolio of key indicators of natural conditions (e.g., topography, biodiversity, water systems, air quality, solar radiation, noise levels) and infrastructure characteristics (e.g. pathways, benches) that significantly impact health and well-being; 

∙ Evaluate cultural ecosystem services and integrate them into the portfolio of key indicators;

 ∙ Provide guidelines for the design, management and maintenance of therapeutic blue and green spaces; 

∙ Support the integration of NBT health cost benefits into the protection, rehabilitation, and enhancement of nature areas. WP1 will be led by UG and co-lead by LNEC.

WP1 responsible: UG

Main contact:
Silke Schmidt, silke.schmidt@uni-greifswal

WP1 co-leader: LNEC

Main contact:
Ana Estela Barbosa, aestela@lnec.pt

WP2 - Design, implementation and validation of nature-based therapies

WP2 aims to design, implement, and validate tailored nature-based therapeutic programmes to significantly improve the physical and mental health conditions of the participants who will be involved in these programmes in 15 ES in different geographical locations that will involve participants with different health conditions. Subsequently, these NB therapeutic programmes will be replicated through the DF. 

The main objectives are: 

∙ Establish and validate the methodology, structure, and components for a portfolio of NBT structured programmes; 

∙ Design a tailored therapeutic programme to improve participants' physical and mental health and well-being; 

∙ Define the nature-based therapist formal requirements protocol, recruitment, and training to conduct the interventions on NATURELAB ES and supervise their replication on the DF sites. WP2 will be led by FTHub and co-lead by APHTS.

WP2 responsible: FTHub

Main contact:
Àlex Gesse, alex@foresttherapyhub.com

WP2 co-leader: APHTS

Main contact:
Daniela Silva-Rodriguez Bonazzi, daniela@aphts.com

WP3 - Establishing causal relationships between nature-based therapies and health and well-being

WP3 aims to define, test and validate the NATURELAB assessment model (e.g., selection criteria for the participants, quantitative and qualitative assessment protocols and experimental designs) (Task 3.1), produce robust, scientific quantitative evidence in the demonstration of the causal relationship and short-, medium- and long-term benefits between nature-based therapeutic programmes and improved health and well-being, as well as the identification of the mediators and moderators of the relationship between health, well-being and exposure to nature (e.g., age, gender, socio-economic status, cultural context, previous experience and contact with nature, nature connectedness and nature dose) (Task 3.2) and the qualitative assessment and impact of nature spaces characteristics in the promotion of health and well-being (Task 3.3). WP3 will be led by LNEC and co-lead by APHTS.

WP3 responsible: LNEC

Main contact:
Ana Estela Barbosa, aestela@lnec.pt
Margarida Rebelo, mrebelo@lnec.pt

WP3 co-leader: APHTS

Main contact:
Daniela Silva-Rodriguez Bonazzi, daniela@aphts.com

WP4 - Governance, social innovation and uptake of nature-based therapies

NATURELAB’s approach for societal uptake and behaviour change for NBT uptake is based on social experimentation through real-life conditions in order to achieve an inclusive and robust spill-over effect in multiple sectors and to a broader audience, at 15 ES in five countries (Portugal, Greece, The Netherlands, Germany and Peru) and four DF in two countries (Greece and Peru). 

The objectives of this WP are: 

∙ To ensure the sustainability of the project methodology through its adoption in the public & private healthcare and social system; 

∙ To engage local communities and stakeholders in co-shaping NBT adoption in their countries as well as on the values of nature, biodiversity and sustainability; 

∙ To propose sustainable and realistic policy changes in each country and at an EU level for NBT. WP4 will be led by KMOP and co-lead by SPI.

WP4 responsible: KMOP

Main contact:
Eirianna Dragona, dragona.e@kmop.org

WP4 co-leader: SPI

Main contact:
Ana Fernandes, anafernandes@spi.pt

WP5 - Communication, dissemination & exploitation

WP5 aims to raise awareness and engage all stakeholders, promoting their participation, evaluation, and feedback on NATURELAB activities but also, ensure the project's major findings reach all those interested, motivating the adoption and implementation of NBT to increase health and well-being. WP5 encompasses the development of a clear identity for NATURELAB and the design and implementation of a dissemination, communication, and exploitation strategy. WP5 will be led by SPI and co-lead by LNEC.

WP5 responsible: SPI

Main contact:
Ana Fernandes, anafernandes@spi.pt

WP5 co-leader: LNEC

Main contact:
Ana Estela Barbosa, aestela@lnec.pt
Margarida Rebelo, mrebelo@lnec.pt

WP6 - Coordination and management

WP6, led by LNEC, will ensure optimal coordination and management of NATURELAB, guaranteeing the effective implementation of the project’s activities by providing structures, tools, and procedures to monitor the progress of the work plan, and timely reporting to the Commission and efficient communication between the project partners. The specific objectives of WP6 include: i) overall project coordination and management; ii) efficient management of scientific and technical activities; iii) timely communication with the EC; iv) establishing appropriate internal communication tools and procedures; v) providing transparent procedures for managing background and foreground intellectual property; and vi) appropriately addressing all ethical issues in the consortium management and in all the project activities.

WP6 responsible: LNEC

Main contact:
Ana Estela Barbosa, aestela@lnec.pt
Margarida Rebelo, mrebelo@lnec.pt


Meet the organisations that are involved in the NATURELAB project:

LNEC is a public research institute devoted to Science, Technology and Innovation in Civil Engineering and related fields.

Laboratório Nacional de Engenharia Civil - LNEC

The University Hospital Cologne (UHC) is one of Germany's most outstanding and largest wide-ranging medical institutions.

Klinikum der Universität zu Köln - UHC

The Forest Therapy Hub (FTHub) is a leading organization in the field of nature-based health and well-being practices.

Forest Therapy Hub - FTHub

The University of Greifswald (UG) is one of the oldest universities in Germany and the Baltic Sea Region.

Universität Greifswald (UG)

The Social Action and Innovation Centre - KMOP is a non-profit organisation with extensive experience in the direct provision of social services and implementation of social initiatives.

Kentro Merimnas Oikogeneias Kai Paidiou - KMOP

Sociedade Portuguesa de Inovação (SPI) is an active centre of national and international networks created in 1996 with the mission of managing projects that foster innovation and promote opportunities.

Sociedade Portuguesa de Inovação - Consultoria Empresarial e Fomento da Inovação, S.A. - SPI

The Peruvian Association of Therapeutic and Social Horticulture (APHTS) is an organisation that aims to promote and develop the Therapeutic and Social Horticulture profession.

Asociación Peruana de Horticultura Terapéutica y Social - APHTS

Sintra is a charming town situated within the cooling hills of the Serra de Sintra that shows a unique cultural landscape in the panorama of Portuguese history.

Município de Sintra - CMS

Rio Neiva is a non-profit Environmental Defense Association that supports the conservation of the Vale do rio Neiva.

Rio Neiva - Associação de Defesa do Ambiente - RN

Wageningen University & Research is a university and research centre in the Netherlands that focuses specifically on the theme 'healthy food and living environment''.

Wageningen University - WU

The Athena Institute VU addresses complex issues at science-society interfaces through transdisciplinary research and education, and enabling joint action.

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam - VU

Ficus is an independent non-governmental organisation dedicated to the research, design and implementation of socio-environmental projects in cities and related territories.

FICUS Peru Desarrollo Socioambiental - FICUS

BioCon Valley® is the initiative for life science and health economy of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany.

BioCon Valley GmbH - BCV

Canary Wharf Consulting Limited is an international consulting company providing services to clients in both the public and the private sector.

Canary Wharf Consulting Limited - CWC

The NATURELAB consortium comprises a diverse group of 14 partners, consisting of 12 Beneficiaries and 2 Associated Partners, hailing from five European countries (Portugal, Greece, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom) as well as Peru in Latin America. These partners collectively represent a wide array of geographic, climate, cultural, and socioeconomic contexts. The consortium encompasses a range of organizations, including 3 research and technology development institutions, 2 entities dedicated to education and research in medical and health sciences, 5 SMEs, 1 public body, and 3 non-governmental organisations.