Biodiversity and feeling good

Dallimer, M., Irvine, K.N., Skinner, A.M.J., Davies, Z.G., Rouquette, J.R., Armsworth, P.R., Maltby, L., Warren, P.H., Gaston, K.J. 2012. Biodiversity and the feel-good factor: understanding associations between self-reported human well-being and species richness. BioScience 62, 46-55.

The natural environment provides humankind with a diverse array of benefits. Not all of these are well understood. For example, there is substantial evidence that people living in cities gain benefits to psychological well-being from greenspaces, but which components of those spaces are most important in this regard are unclear. Here we report the lack of a consistent relationship between actual plant, butterfly, and bird species richness and the psychological well-being of urban greenspace visitors. Instead, well-being shows a positive relationship with the richness that the greenspace users perceived to be present. One plausible explanation for this discrepancy, which we investigate, is that people generally have poor biodiversity-identification skills. The apparent importance of perceived species richness and the mismatch between reality and perception pose a serious challenge for aligning conservation and human well-being agendas.