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The Restorative Potential of Sub-Aquatic Biodiversity

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  • Biology
  • Ecology
  • Psychology


"IntroductionDespite anecdotal evidence that people find watching fish in aquariums relaxing there has been little systematic research. The present study investigates this issue by monitoring people's psychological and physiological reactions to watching a large exhibit at the National Marine Aquarium. The tank is currently undergoing refurbishment enabling us to monitor people's reactions to the growing biodiversity introduced to the tank over a twelve month period and to compare this to a control condition before any fish were introduced. Data are presented from the first three conditions: a) "No Fish", b) "Low", c) "Medium" biodiversity.MethodParticipants were shown to a booth in front of the exhibit and baseline measures of heart rate, blood pressure and mood were taken. Participants then viewed the tank in one of three conditions: a) No Fish, n = 29, b) Low, n = 27 or c) Medium, n = 30. Fish in the Low condition included 34 Thick-lipped grey mullet (Chelon labrosus) and 14 dogfish (Scyliorhinus spp.); additional fish in the Medium condition included 19 Ballan wrasse (Labrus bergylta) and 5 Thornback rays (Raja clavata). Participants watched the tank for 10 minutes before the baseline measures were repeated along with evaluation questions.Findings to DateHeart rate dropped in all three conditions over 10 minutes but was significantly moderated by tank: (No Fish: -2.57, Low: -5.40, Medium: -5.88, p = .023). Further analysis showed that both tanks with fish showed significantly greater drops than the No Fish tank but were not significantly different from each other. While patterns for blood pressure were broadly similar none of the effects were significant (ps > .05): Systolic (-1.81, -4.21, -3.96), Diastolic (1.24, -3.92, -5.43). Heart rate data were reflected in self-reported mood, with mood at the end of the 10 minutes most positive (controlling for baseline) in the Medium condition: (2.54, 3.06, 3.37, p = .023). This effect was also revealed in people's post-study experience evaluations: 'Enjoyment' (3.14, 4.58, 4.73, p

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