The importance of species diversity for human well-being in Europe
Nature affects human well-being in multiple ways. However, the association between species diversity and human well-being at larger spatial scales remains largely unexplored. Here, we examine the relationship between species diversity and human well-being at the continental scale, while controlling for other known drivers of well-being. We related socio-economic data from more than 26,000 European citizens across 26 countries with macroecological data on species diversity and nature characteristics for Europe. Human well-being was measured as self-reported life-satisfaction and species diversity as the species richness of several taxonomic groups (e.g. birds, mammals and trees). Our results show that bird species richness is positively associated with life-satisfaction across Europe. We found a relatively strong relationship, indicating that the effect of bird species richness on life-satisfaction may be of similar magnitude to that of income. We discuss two, non-exclusive pathways for this relationship: the direct multisensory experience of birds, and beneficial landscape properties which promote both bird diversity and people's well-being. Based on these results, this study argues that management actions for the protection of birds and the landscapes that support them would benefit humans. We suggest that political and societal decision-making should consider the critical role of species diversity for human well-being.
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