An integrated approach to estimate aesthetic and ecological values of coralligenous reefs

Type Article
Date 2021-10
Language English
Author(s) Langlois Juliette1, Guilhaumon François1, 2, Bockel Thomas3, Boissery Pierre4, de Almeida Braga Cédric5, Deter Julie1, 3, Holon Florian3, Marre Guilhem3, Tribot Anne-Sophie6, 7, Mouquet Nicolas1, 8
Affiliation(s) 1 : MARBEC, Univ Montpellier, CNRS, Ifremer, IRD, Montpellier, France
2 : IRD, la Réunion, France
3 : Andromède Océanologie, Mauguio, France
4 : Agence de l’eau Rhône Méditerranée Corse, France
5 : Univ Rennes, Inria, CNRS, IRISA, Rennes, France
6 : UMR TELEMMe, Aix-Marseille University, CNRS, Aix-En-Provence, France
7 : MIO, Aix-Marseille University, CNRS, IRD, Marseille, France
8 : FRB – CESAB, 34000 Montpellier, France
Source Ecological Indicators (1470-160X) (Elsevier BV), 2021-10 , Vol. 129 , P. 107935 (13p.)
DOI 10.1016/j.ecolind.2021.107935
Keyword(s) Aesthetic perception, Coralligenous reefs, Ecological value, Deep learning, Nature contribution to people

Assessing non-material nature contributions to people has become one major challenge in biodiversity sciences. Among them, the aesthetic value of biodiversity is of strong importance as it contributes to human well-being and increases the collective willingness to engage in conservation efforts. Using the endangered coralligenous reefs along the French Mediterranean coastline as a case study, we propose a quantitative approach to estimate the aesthetic and ecological values of a marine ecosystem. We combined human image evaluation and deep learning algorithms to provide a quantitative estimation of the aesthetic value of 7692 photographic quadrats among 160 stations located between 20 and 90 m depth and gathered on 95 sites. To understand how aesthetic value is related to biodiversity metrics, environmental variables and anthropogenic pressures we used a structural equation modelling approach. We found that taxonomic diversity and species composition explained a significant part of the aesthetic value of the coralligenous reefs. Taxonomic diversity showed a net positive effect and species composition analysis highlighted both positive and negative effects of some species on the aesthetic value. Net negative effects of functional and phylogenetic diversities were found, which illustrates an aesthetic bias in human perception of ecological value. The aesthetic and ecological values were mapped along the French Mediterranean coastline in three dimensions (longitude, latitude, depth); this synthetic visualization could be of strong interest for conservation and communication purposes about this endangered benthic key-ecosystem of the Mediterranean Sea. Overall, our approach provides a geographically scalable estimate of the aesthetic value of biodiversity which is still an underestimated facet of nature contributions to people. It could be transposed to other marine ecosystems such as coral reefs but also to terrestrial landscapes for which an increasing number of images evaluated for human preference are becoming available.

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Langlois Juliette, Guilhaumon François, Bockel Thomas, Boissery Pierre, de Almeida Braga Cédric, Deter Julie, Holon Florian, Marre Guilhem, Tribot Anne-Sophie, Mouquet Nicolas (2021). An integrated approach to estimate aesthetic and ecological values of coralligenous reefs. Ecological Indicators, 129, 107935 (13p.). Publisher's official version : , Open Access version :