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Interconnectedness With Nature And Human Emotional Response To Biodiversity

Previous research has found that perceived interconnectedness with nature is associated with positive mental health and wellbeing. I tested the idea that self-nature interconnectedness is related to the degree to which nature affects human well-being using photos of riparian sites containing native and non-native vegetation, the latter mainly in the genus Tamarix. Tamarix has been a major focus of restoration activities in riparian systems in the southwest region of the United States. There is rising concern about the effects of aesthetic and biodiversity on human perceptions of the restoration, as well as human psychological well-being. Previous research has found that perceived biodiversity is positively correlated to its effect on mood; I tested the hypothesis that this impact of biodiversity would be dependent upon how connected to nature a person feels. To test my hypothesis, we collected data from students at the University of Denver using an online survey in which participants were asked to rate the attractiveness and biodiversity of a series of images. I used the Inclusion of Nature in Self (INS) scale to cognitively measure and quantify the participant’s self-nature interconnectedness and the Positive Affect-Negative Affect Scale (PANAS) as a measure of participant mood pre- and post-survey. I found that rather than biodiversity, it was the participants own connection with nature that was associated with mood change, with more connected people having a positive mood shift and less connected people having less or even negative changes in mood over the course of the survey. These findings will help inform health care practitioners, ecologists and conservation biologists about how nature affects the human populations surrounding an ecosystem.