Development and wilderness on urban cemeteries: The role of spiritual experiences, nature orientation and reason for visit on acceptance and preferences
1. Tanja Straka | Maren Mischo | Konstantin Petrick | Ingo Kowarik
Technische Universität Berlin
Urban cemeteries in Berlin
Development and wilderness on urban cemeteries: The role of spiritual experiences,
nature orientation and reason for visit on acceptance and preferences
ISSRM - Virtual Conference by IASNR
...Are multidimensional places (Woodthorpe, 2011; Hornbogen, 2013) in the urban fabric and are crucial for biodiversity and
people. While their main function is burial and activities linked to mourning, they provide a range of
ecosystem services. (Francis et al., 2000; Hrsg. Kowarik et al., 2016)
They are important recreational, cultural
and historical places for people (Nordh et al.,
2017; Swensen, 2018).
They are also crucial habitats for a lot of urban
animals, plants and many endangered species
(Kowarik et al., 2016; Yilmaz et al. 2017).
Fig 1: guided tour on a cemetery in Berlin Fig 2: natural succession on the jewish cemetery in Berlin Fig 3: common buzzard 2
3. Study area
Berlin holds 244 cemeteries distributed all over the urban fabric (Fig.
4). Most of them are designed in a park style with urban forest
patches (Skar et al., 2018; Kowarik et al. 2019).
Due to changing burial practices they differ in
● intensity of use
● management levels
● wilderness and successional process (Kowarik et al., 2016; Graf, 1986).
As Berlin grows many cemeteries are under pressure. There is
discussion to convert some of the cemeteries or areas within them
into green spaces (for recreation/leisure) or building land (e.g.
apartments/social infrastructure) (SenStadtUm 2014, Struchholz, 2019).
Fig 4: Berlin city map with “Planungsräume LOR” and location of
4. The aims of our study were to investigate the…
1. Acceptability for ‚grey development‘ (e.g. built structures), ‚green development‘ (e.g.
urban gardens) and acceptability of intensive leisure activities (e.g. playground)
2. Preferences for green areas on cemeteries differing in their level of wilderness
(ranging from mown lawns to overgrown areas)
3. Predictive potential of spiritual experiences on cemeteries, nature orientation
and reason to visit cemeteries on acceptability and preferences
5. Self-administered online survey June 2020
(15 June 2020: 523 participants)
Closed questionaire addressing: reasons for visiting,
preferences, acceptability and predictors. Preferences and
accepatibility with photo stimuli.
Snowball sampling to Berlin citizens: institutions as
multiplicators, social media (e.g. facebook), leaflets with
QR- codes, online platform.
Fig 5: Leaflet with QR-Code, translated for ISSRM virtual conference by IASNR
6. Preferences for management of
open green areas and of wild
elements (deadwood) on cemeteries
Measured on a 5- point scale with photo stimuli (e.g.
mown lawns to overgrown areas with or without dead
with deadwood without deadwood
wildmeadowmown Fig 6: Preferences of management-levels with or without deadwood
‘On a scale from 1 (don’t like at all) to 5 (like very
much), which scenario on a cemetery do you find
7. Acceptability for...
13 different development strategies
could be grouped in three categories
(Exploratory Factor Analysis)GREEN DEVELOPMENT
LEISUREincl. urban wilderness,
community gardens, grazing,
meadow orchard incl. playground,
campsite, sports ground
incl. apartments, industrial
buildings, social infrastructure
Fig 7: urban wilderness on a cemetery Fig 8: playground on a cemetery Fig 9: building land
‘On a scale from 1 (don’t accept at all) to 5 (totally accept), how acceptable are the
following development strategies for cemetery areas that are no longer used for
What feelings does a visit to the
cemetery trigger in you?
Own developed scale, items
derived from the literature and
tested in cognitive interviews with
n = 12.
Capturing spiritual experiences on
cemeteries such as (Cronbach‘s
‚Old trees help me to cope with my
‘Overgrown graves bring the cycle
of life to me’
Items on connection to nature
(Fischer et al. 2018)
(Cronbach’s alpha 0.74)
‘I am interested in animals and
‘I enjoy watching nature
documentaries or books about
Items derived from the literature
and tested in cognitive interviews
with n = 12.
9. Preliminary results
1. Acceptability for different
development strategies on
‘Green development’ was
significantly more preferred
than other development
strategies. ‘Grey development’
was the least preferred.
All significant different. Tukey’s HSD: Green-grey p < 0.001, green- leisure p < 0.001, grey-leisure p < 0.001
Fig 10: Acceptability of development strategies
10. Preliminary results
2. Preferences for how green areas
on cemeteries should be managed
Significant different. Tukey’s HSD: meadow-lawn p < 0.001, wild-lawn p < 0.001.
Areas with wilderness or meadows
with wildflowers were significantly
more preferred than mown lawns;
irrespective if with dead wood was
present or not.
Fig 11: Landscape preferences of management strategies. Since no differences were found
between scenarios with and without dead wood, photo sets were here combined.
11. Preliminary results
The reason to visit cemeteries for nature experiences, spiritual experiences on cemeteries and high nature
orientations showed all positive predictive potential to appreciated wild green areas and meadows with
wildflowers on cemeteries; however, the reason to visit a cemetery for grief showed negative predictive
potential on preferences for wild green areas.
Fig 12: Predictive potential on landscape preferences
3. Landscape preferences: predictive potential of spiritual
experiences, nature orientation and reason for visit
12. Preliminary results
4. Acceptability for different development strategies: predictive
potential of spiritual experiences, nature orientation and reason for visit
Spiritual experiences on cemeteries and the reason to visit cemeteries for nature experiences showed positive
effects on the acceptability of green development; while the reason to visit cemeteries for grief showed negative
effects. Nature orientations showed a negative effect on the acceptability of ‚grey development‘.
Fig 13: Predictive potential on acceptability of development strategies
Areas with wilderness or meadows with wildflowers were preferred above mown lawn;
irrespective if dead wood was shown on the photos or not.
People with high orientation towards nature, who visit cemeteries for nature experiences and
who gain comfort in experiencing nature on urban cemeteries (in our survey: spiritual
experiences) showed higher appreciation for wild areas or meadows with wildflowers on urban
However, people who visit cemeteries for grief did not appreciate wild areas or meadows with
Hence, it might be worth to manage areas differently (e.g. for grief and/or for nature
experiences) to meet the needs of visitors for cemeteries.
‚Green‘ (e.g. community gardens) was the most preferred development strategy for unused areas
on urban cemeteries while ‚grey‘ (e.g. buildings) was the least preferred one.
Similarly here, people who visit urban cemeteries to experience nature and who gain comfort in
experiencing nature on urban cemeteries were most supportive of ‚green‘ development, while
people who visit urban cemeteries for grief not.
Hence, urban areas with limited areas of green spaces, urban cemeteries should have a ‚green‘
development for people who appreciate nature and who can gain comfort on these special urban
places; this could contribute to environmental justice.
Survey‘s during COVID-19: nearly all (97%) of our responses derived from social media and email
15. Prof. Ingo Kowarik
Dr. Tanja Straka Maren Mischo Konstantin Petrick
Expertise in biodiversity patterns and
underlying mechanisms, with a particular
focus on cities and biological invasions,
people-nature intersection and how to
integrate biodiversity in urban
Expertise in urban ecology, urban bats
and human dimensions of wildlife
conservation. Combination of social
science theories and ecological
Urban planning student (Bachelor of
Urban planning student (Bachelor of
own photographs of different urban cemeteries in Berlin
● Fischer, Leonie K.; Honold, Jasmin; Cvejić, Rozalija; Delshammar, Tim; Hilbert, Sven; Lafortezza, Raffaele; Nastran, Mojca; Nielsen, Anders Busse; Pintar, Marina; van der Jagt, Alexander
P.N. and Kowarik, Ingo (2018) Supplementary data - Beyond green: Broad support for biodiversity in multicultural European cities.
● Francis, Doris; Kellaher, Leonie and Neophytou, Georgina (2000) Sustaining cemeteries: The user perspective, Mortality 5 (1).
● Graf, Annerose (1986) Flora und Vegetation der Friedhöfe in Berlin (West).
● Hornbogen, Marie-Luise (2013) Heute Friedhof - Morgen Wohngebiet? Fallstudie Berlin zur Friedhofsentwicklung in der Stadtplanung. ISR Impulse Online.
● Kowarik, Ingo; Buchholz, Sascha; von der Lippe, Moritz; Seitz, Birgit (2016) Biodiversity functions of urban cemeteries: evidence from one of the largest Jewish cemeteries in Europe.
● Kowarik, Ingo; Hiller, Anne; Planchuelo, Greg.; Seitz, Birgit.; von der Lippe, Moritz; Buchholz, Sascha. (2019) Emerging Urban Forests: Opportunities for Promoting the Wild Side of the
Urban Green Infrastructure. Sustainability 2019.
● Kowarik, Ingo; Buchholz, Sascha; Lippe, Moritz; Seitz, Birgit (2016) Biodiversity functions of urban cemeteries: Evidence from one of the largest Jewish cemeteries in Europe. Urban
Forestry & Urban Greening.
● Kowarik, Ingo; Bartz, Robert and Brenck, Miriam (editors) (2016) Naturkapital Deutschland – TEEB DE (2016): Ökosystemleistungen in der Stadt – Gesundheit schützen und
Lebensqualität erhöhen. Technische Universität Berlin, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Umweltforschung – UFZ. Berlin and Leipzig.
● Nordh et al. (2017) A peaceful place in the city – A qualitative study of restorative components of the cemetery. Landscape and Urban Planning.
● Senatsverwaltung für Stadtentwicklung und Wohnen (editor) (2014). Bericht zum Stand der Umsetzung des Friedhofsentwicklungsplans (FEP) 2006.
● Skår, Margrete; Nordh, Helena and Swensen, Grete (2018) Green urban cemeteries: more than just parks. Journal of Urbanism: International Research on Placemaking and Urban
● Struchholz, Thomas (2019): Friedhof - ein Ort mit Zukunft. Friedhofsplanung in der Praxis. Fachverlag des deutschen Bestattungsgewerbes GmbH.
● Swensen, Grete (2018) Between romantic historic landscapes, rational management models and obliterations – urban cemeteries as green memory sites. Urban Forestry & Urban
● Woodthorpe, Kate (2011): Sustaining the contemporary cemetery: implementing policy alongside conflicting perspectives and purpose. Mortality 16 (3).
● Yılmaz, Hatice; Kuşak, Bahriye and Akkemik, Ünal (2017) The role of Aşiyan Cemetery (İstanbul) as a green urban space from an ecological perspective and its importance in urban plant
diversity. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening.
● cover photos: own photos
● Fig 1: Yvonne Zimmerer (2019): Langer Tag der Stadtnatur am 25.05.2019. Evangelischer Friedhofsverband Berlin Stadtmitte. Online access:
● Fig 2: own photo
● Fig 3: Jens Scharon (n.d.): Mäusebussard. Online access: https://www.dbu.de/inc/phpThumb/phpThumb.php?src=/media/260918025222u0oi.jpg&w=1000
● Fig 4: own figure (2020): map based on "Geoportal Berlin / [Friedhofsbestand Berlin]"
● Fig 5: own leaflet with own photos (2020)
● Fig 6: own arranged photos (2020)
● Fig 7: own arranged photo (2020)
● Fig 8: own arranged photo (2020)
● Fig 9: building land: spuno, ID #198758933, Name: Europacity Berlin, Source: Adobe Stock, unverändert (n.d.)
● Fig 10: own figure (2020)
● Fig 11: own figure (2020)
● Fig 12: own figure (2020)
● Fig 13: own figure (2020)
● last slide: own photos
GREEN DEVELOPMENT urban wilderness and nature experience
The reason to visit cemeteries for nature has a positive effect on acceptability of green development; high nature orientation has a negative effect on the acceptability of grey structures.