The aesthetic value of Brazilian reefs: From species to seascape

Luiza S. Waechter, André L. Luza, Linda Eggertsen, Juan P. Quimbayo, Natalia Hanazaki, Hudson T. Pinheiro, Vinicius J. Giglio, Cesar A.M.M. Cordeiro, Thiago C. Mendes, Osmar J. Luiz, Cristian Dambros, Guilherme O. Longo, Mário Almeida-Neto, Mariana G. Bender

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The marine wildlife and seascape components of reef environments are part of peoples' senses and perceptions of nature and and ecosystem services. While people worldwide perceive and value reef components differently, such aesthetics evaluations often overlook marginal reefs, limiting our comprehensive understanding of their cultural significance. We interviewed 320 different users (e.g., recreational divers, researchers, recreational and commercial fishers, and beach tourists) using an online questionnaire with embedded pictures of 82 fish species and 65 seascapes. To assess people's perception about reefs, we related the aesthetic value (i.e., the preference rate) of each picture to body size, body shape and colour for bony and cartilaginous fish, and to the presence of predators, fish schools, benthic organisms, reef patches and area for the underwater and out-of-the-water seascape. We then created an index composed by site-level species aesthetic values, species relative abundances, under and out-of-water aesthetics and measuredthe overall aesthetic value of nine reef sites along the Brazilian province. The different users attributed similar aesthetic values to fish species, under and out-of-the-water components, yet preferences differed among them. Divers preferred large parrotfishes, while tourists preferred coloured fish. The most valued fish traits were the body shape of manta rays and colorful bony species. Out-of-the-water seascapes with emerging reef patches had the highest aesthetic values. When combining the different aesthetic value components in the index, we found that marginal biogenic reefs in Northeastern Brazil had the highest aesthetic value among the evaluated sites. These reefs hold immense value for national tourism, significantly contributing to the revenue of these states. Also, they harbour threatened species, which possess both high aesthetic value and great ecological importance. Therefore, incorporating aesthetic value in conservation initiatives has the potential to improve our ability to maintain and develop cultural reef services.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106882
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalOcean and Coastal Management
Early online date7 Nov 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2024

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