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Dec 6, 2012

Physiological and Psychological Responses to Varying Levels of Fish Biodiversity

The restorative potential of sub-aquatic biodiversity

Despite anecdotal evidence that people find watching fish in aquariums relaxing, relatively few studies have systematically explored people’s physiological or psychological responses to watching fish. Furthermore, other than a small number of studies looking at terrestrial biodiversity (e.g. plants and birds), there appears to be little research on how these responses are affected by varying biodiversity. The current research examines physiological and psychological responses to three different levels of biodiversity (‘No fish’, ‘Low’ and ‘Medium biodiversity’) in a large exhibit at the National Marine Aquarium, Plymouth.  Measures of heart rate, blood pressure and mood were taken before, during and after viewing the aquarium exhibit for all three conditions, together with some evaluation questions. 

Overall, whilst watching the aquarium exhibit, participants in this study experienced a significant decrease in heart rate and systolic blood pressure, and a significant improvement in mood, which suggests that exposure to aquarium exhibits may have stress reducing properties. Furthermore, as far as we are aware, these data are the first to systematically monitor the effects of populating an environment with differing levels of biodiversity. Results so far indicate that even watching an empty tank may be physiologically and emotionally restorative but that the presence of fish improves these effects further. For all our dependent variables, the ‘Medium biodiversity’ tank produced the most restorative effects, although not always statistically different to the ‘Low biodiversity’ condition. Nevertheless, given the pattern of data, we predict further improvements during the next stage of restocking when biodiversity will increase yet further. 

National Marine Aquarium

COMMENDATION received in BIAZA Awards 2012 for Best Field Conservation Project

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