Taxonomic and functional diversity increase the aesthetic value of coralligenous reefs

Tribot et al. (2016) Scientific reports , 6:34229.

The aesthetic value of landscapes contributes to human well-being. However, studies which have investigated the link between biodiversity and ecosystem services have not taken aesthetic value into account. In this study we evaluated how the aesthetics of coralligenous reefs, a key marine ecosystem in the Mediterranean, is perceived by the general public and how aesthetic preferences are related to biodiversity facets (taxonomic, phylogenetic and functional diversities). We performed both biodiversity measures and online-surveys of aesthetic perception on photographic quadrats sampled along the French Mediterranean coast. Our results show that species richness and functional richness have a significant positive effect on aesthetic value. Most of the ecological literature, exploring the relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning and service has focused so far on ‘economical’ aspects of biodiversity (provision or regulation). Our results illustrate that cultural facets, such as ‘beauty’, should also be central in our motivations to preserve ecological diversity.