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Tribot, A. - S., Carabeux, Q., Deter, J., Claverie, T., Villeger, S., & Mouquet, N. (2018). Confronting species aesthetics with ecological functions in coral reef fish. Sci Rep, 8, 11733.
Résumé: The biodiversity crisis has spurred scientists to assess all facets of biodiversity so that stakeholders can establish protection programs. However, species that are perceived as beautiful receive more attention than less attractive species. This dynamic could have tremendous consequences on people's willingness to preserve biodiversity. Coral reefs might be particularly affected by this issue as they are key ecosystems that provide many services, such as aesthetic and cultural benefits attracting millions of tourists each year. Here we show the results of an online photographic questionnaire completed by 8,000 participants whereby preferences were assessed for a set of 116 reef fishes. Based on these preferences, we compared the functional richness, i.e. the amount of functional space filled, by groups of fishes based on their perceived attractiveness. We present evidence indicating that the least attractive coral reef fishes have a much higher functional richness than the most attractive species. Our results highlight the extent to which species aesthetic values' may be disconnected from their ecological values and could be misleading for conservation purposes. There is thus an urgent need to increase the attention of scientists and the general public towards less attractive species to better appreciate and protect the species that crucially support functional diversity in endangered ecosystems.