Category: Biodiversity

The English language dominates global conservation science – which leaves 1 in 3 research papers virtually ignored


by Tatsuya Amano (The University of Queensland)

English is considered the language of international science. But our new research reveals how important scientific knowledge in other languages is going untapped. This oversight squanders opportunities to help improve the plight of the one million species facing extinction.

We reviewed almost 420,000 peer-reviewed papers on biodiversity conservation, published in 16 languages other than English. Many non-English-language papers provided evidence on the effectiveness of conservation measures, but they are often not disseminated to the wider scientific community.

History shows many valuable scientific breakthroughs were originally published in a language other than English. The structure of a Nobel Prize–winning antimalarial drug was first published in 1977 in simplified Chinese, as were many of the earliest papers on COVID-19.

Evidence-based conservation is crucial for tackling the Earth’s biodiversity crisis. Our research shows more effort is needed to transcend language barriers in science, maximising scientific contributions to conservation and helping save life on this planet.

woman with clipboard inspects plants
Research findings in non-English papers can provide valuable insights. Shutterstock

Conservation game-changer

Most scientists speak English as a first or second language. And many academic reward programs are skewed towards getting published in international English-language journals.

But important evidence in biodiversity conservation is routinely generated by field conservationists and scientists who are less fluent in English. They often prefer publishing work in their first language – which for many, is not English.

More than one-third of scientific documents on biodiversity conservation are published in languages other than English. However, such knowledge is rarely used at the international level.

Take, for example, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). Analysis of the IPBES biodiversity assessment reports has found 96% of references cited are written in English.

Clearly, tackling any global challenge, including the biodiversity crisis, hinges on tapping into the best available knowledge, whichever language it’s produced in. Our translatE project aims to overcome the language barriers to improve this information flow.

As part of the project, we screened 419,679 peer-reviewed papers published in 16 non-English languages between 1888 and 2020 across a wide range of fields. These spanned biodiversity, ecology, conservation biology, forestry and agricultural science, to name a few.

We found 1,234 papers across the 16 non-English languages that provided evidence on the effectiveness of biodiversity conservation interventions. To put this in perspective, the Conservation Evidence database, which documents global research into the effectiveness of conservation actions, holds 4,412 English-language papers.

The rate of publication of relevant studies is increasing over years in six non-English languages: French, German, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian and simplified Chinese.

Among the non-English-language studies we found were a Spanish study on alleviating conflicts between livestock farmers and endangered Andean mountain cats in northern Patagonia, and a Japanese study on the relocation of endangered Blakiston’s fish owls.

Such findings might have valuable insights for human-nature conflicts and threatened bird management in other parts of the world.

owl in icy water
A Japanese study on Blakiston’s fish owls was among the relevant non-English papers the authors identified. Shutterstock

Most English-language evidence on what works in conservation relates to Europe and North America. In some highly biodiverse regions where conservation is needed most, such as Latin America, evidence is desperately lacking.

Research in languages other than English is especially common in regions where English-language studies are scarce, such as Latin America, Russia and East Asia (see figure below).

Many non-English studies also involve species for which studies in English are few or non-existent. Incorporating non-English studies would expand scientific knowledge into 12-25% more geographic areas and 5-32% more species.

The location of 1,203 non-English-language studies testing the effectiveness of conservation interventions, compared to English-language studies. Amano et al. (2021) Tapping into non-English-language science for the conservation of global biodiversity. PLOS Biology.

Tapping global knowledge

Making the best use of non-English-language science can be a quick, cost-effective way to fill gaps in English-language science.

Our research recommends more effort to synthesise non-English-language studies, and making this knowledge available in English so it can be disseminated to a global audience.

And research projects should seek to involve native speakers of different languages. For our research, we worked with 62 collaborators who, collectively, are native speakers of 17 languages.

To have the best chance of halting Earth’s extinction crisis, we must harness the skills, experience and knowledge of people from around the world.

We also urge wider disciplines to reassess the untapped potential of non-English science to address other global challenges.

Tatsuya Amano, Australian Research Council Future Fellow, The University of Queensland

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Biodiversity Advantage: Thriving with nature – biodiversity for sustainable livelihoods and food systems

Download the document.

IFAD’s second Biodiversity Advantage report showcases five IFAD projects which highlight the integral importance of biodiversity in agriculture.

These projects show how promoting biodiversity improves human and ecosystem health, and the roles of small-scale agricultural producers in preserving and restoring biodiversity and schemes that reward them for their stewardship of healthy natural environments.

Five years after largest marine heatwave on record hit northern California coast, many warm–water species have stuck around

Southerly species like the giant owl limpet, seen here, started appearing on northern California shores. Jerry Kirkhart/Flickr, CC BY

by Erica Nielsen and Sam Walkes (University of California, Davis)

Land–based heatwaves have a less obvious though equally important sibling: marine heatwaves. In 2013, the largest marine heatwave on record began when an unusually warm mass of water formed in the Gulf of Alaska. By the next summer, the warm water spread south, raising average water temperatures along the United States west coast by 3.6 to 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit (2-4 Celsius). In 2015, a strong El Niño event strengthened the marine heatwave further.

And so “the Blob,” as oceanographers have dubbed this huge body of warm water, was born.

A map of the Pacific Ocean with huge swaths of red colors from the coast of North America to Russia.
This satellite image from fall 2014 shows the beginnings of the Blob, where red colors represent unusually warm water temperatures. NOAA via Wikimedia Commons

Interestingly, a number of species moved northward to places along the west coast of the U.S. where the water had previously been too cold for them.

We are a marine evolutionary biologist and a marine ecologist, and are currently studying these recent arrivals to the northern California coast. Through our work, we hope to understand what has allowed species to not only move with the Blob, but persist after the water cooled.

Hundreds of dead small red crabs on a beach with two people and two dogs walking in the background.
Pelagic red crabs, normally found in warm waters off Mexico, began washing up on beaches in California in 2015. MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images

With warm water came new species

The Blob changed weather as well as ocean currents, led to the deaths of thousands of marine mammals and birds, and caused harmful algal blooms. Animals also moved during the years of warm water with the Blob. Species that usually live in more southern, warmer waters expanded their ranges into northern California and Oregon.

Pelagic red crabs, usually found off the Baja California peninsula, washed up by the hundreds on beaches north of San Francisco. Keen naturalists were surprised to find that populations of bright green sunburst anenomes, giant owl limpets and pink volcano barnacles had in some places increased by the hundreds. Ecologists even discovered a new population of angular unicorn snails over 150 miles north of their original range edge.

The Blob was not destined to last forever. It eventually faded away and water temperatures returned to normal.

A map of California with four colored lines.
Many species have established new populations far north of their historical limits, as demonstrated in this graphic where the lighter colored bars show the previous range limits and the darker colors show the new range extensions. Erica Nielsen, Sam Walkes, CC BY-ND

Cooling temps

Many species that arrived with the Blob didn’t stay within the colder northern waters once the heatwave passed. For example, open water species like the common dolphin followed the warm waters north, then migrated back southward once waters cooled. But many coastal species are sessile – meaning they are stuck to rocks for all their adult lives. But these species are not attached to rocks when they are young. During the early larval stages, they ride ocean currents and can travel dozens of miles to find new coastlines to live on.

The Blob’s warm waters and shifting currents allowed the larvae of many species to move far past their northern boundaries while remaining in their environmental comfort zone. However, when the marine heatwave ended, the real survival test began.

Our team has been tracking these northern coastal populations to see which species have persisted post-Blob. Each year our team returns to the cold, wave-pounded northern California shores to monitor existing populations and look for new recruits – young individuals that survived their larval stage and successfully settled on rocks.

Every year we are excited to find new barnacle, snail and slug recruits. Of the 37 coastal species our team has been tracking, at least five have maintained small but stable northern populations after the warm waters of the Blob disappeared.

A small shelled creature stuck to a rock surrounded by barnacles.
The giant owl limpet, seen here nestled in a tide pool, is one of the species that has managed to establish itself in the northern waters. Sam Walkes, CC BY-ND

Who goes from northern tourist to local?

In addition to monitoring populations, our team is also gathering ecological and evolutionary information about these species. The giant owl limpet is one of the species that has persisted, and we want to identify what traits helped them survive after the Blob ended.

In general, traits that help a species settle in a new environment include the ability to grow and reproduce faster, choose suitable habitats, defend territories or have more offspring. To test some of these ideas, our team is conducting ecological experiments along the California coast, and we are annually recording growth for more than 2,500 individual limpets. We are also experimentally pitting juvenile owl limpets against larger adults and other competing limpet species. We hope that this work will reveal whether the new limpets on the block can grow rapidly while competing with others.

But the ecology is only half of the range expansion story. In tandem with the ecological experiments, our lab is sequencing owl limpet genomes to identify genes that potentially code for traits like faster growth or competitive prowess. It’s possible to figure out on a genetic level what is allowing certain species to survive.

A cluster of small snails on a rock.
Unicorn snails, seen here in a tide pool, migrated north during the warm years of the Blob. Some populations have managed to establish themselves permanently. Sam Walkes, CC BY-ND

Conserving shifting species in a changing ocean

Considering the effects of ongoing climate change, it is good news that species can move to track their preferred climate. It’s important to note that while species that move due to climate change are not invasive, these shifts can change existing ecosystems. For example, the Hilton’s nudibranch, a predatory sea slug, expanded northward during the Blob, which led to a decline in local nudibranchs.

Research shows that marine heatwaves are becoming more common thanks to climate change. By understanding the ecological and evolutionary attributes that allowed some species to endure and even thrive during and after the Blob, we may be able to predict what will allow species to expand further during future marine heatwaves.

The Blob 2.0 is coming; what changes will it bring?

Erica Nielsen, Postdoctoral Researcher in Marine Biology, University of California, Davis and Sam Walkes, PhD Student in Ecology, University of California, Davis

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

eBird data can help track bee health

Read the full story from Cornell University.

A two-year, $500,000 grant from the Walmart Foundation will allow a team of data scientists and ecologists to use eBird data to explore a new way to track pollinator health and biodiversity.

The project allows the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability to devise a new method of tracking the health of the all-important arthropod populations that are a part of pollinating one out of every three bites of food people eat – and it all starts with birds.

Mexican communities manage their local forests, generating benefits for humans, trees and wildlife

Jungle near the Palenque ruins, Chiapas, Mexico. Lawrence Murray/Flickr, CC BY

by David Bray (Florida International University)

The United Nations is preparing to host pivotal conferences in the coming months on two global crises: climate change and biodiversity loss. As experts have pointed out, these issues are fundamentally, inescapably intertwined. In both cases, human activities are harming nature and the support it provides to people.

But that connection also is an opportunity. Protecting places that are both carbon- and species-rich can help slow climate change and biodiversity loss at the same time. For example, in a June 2021 report, U.N. biodiversity experts urged nations to establish strict protected areas and govern forests through “locally adjusted sustainable management practices.”

I study Mexican community forests, and believe they are the world’s best model of local sustainable management. My research over 30 years has shown that when Indigenous and local communities control their forests for commercial timber production, both humans and the land benefit.

As I write in my book, “Mexico’s Community Forest Enterprises: Success on the Commons and the Seeds of a Good Anthropocene,” these forests provide hope for a better future than the one now bearing down on us.

Map showing Mexico's forested areas in shades of green
This 2014 image, derived from ground-based and satellite images, shows the amount of organic carbon stored in the trunks, limbs and leaves of trees in Mexico. The darkest greens reveal the areas with the densest, tallest and most robust forest growth. NASA Earth Observatory

Mexico’s sustainability model

Mexico is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world. Much of that life depends on its 165 million acres (65 million hectares) of forests, which cover about one-third of the nation’s land area.

Millions of monarch butterflies migrate from North America to forested hillsides in Mexico’s Sierra Madre mountains every winter. Tropical forests in southern Mexico harbor jaguars, spider monkeys, crocodiles, anteaters and nearly 500 species of birds.

As a result of the 1911-1917 Mexican Revolution, ownership of around 60% of the nation’s forests, totaling some 104 million acres (42 million hectares), was transferred to local communities. Over the following decades, reformers subsidized equipment and provided training in logging and business for the people who took over these important resources. Community members seized the opportunity.

This decades-long experiment, with government support and market incentives, has produced surprising results. Today Mexican community forest enterprises administer their common property woodlands at a scale and current maturity unparalleled anywhere else in the world.

Cutting down trees may seem like a counterintuitive way to slow climate change and species loss, but in Mexico it works. Community forest businesses sell profitable products like timber and bottled spring water. Some 1,600 communities sustainably log over 17 million acres of forest. They carefully select only certain trees for harvesting so that forests will vigorously regrow.

A worker measures logs harvested from community forests in Durango. David Bray, CC-BY-ND

Measuring results

Orange and black bird on a branch.
Altamira oriole (Icterus gularis), Tinum, Yucatan. Becky Matsubara/Flickr, CC BY

Research shows that Mexico’s model supports conservation. One study of 733 municipalities in eight states found that deforestation rates were lower in managed forests with high percentages of commonly owned land. Community forests in the tropical state of Quintana Roo have lower deforestation rates than public protected areas in southern Mexico, using logging practices that preserve habitat for wintering migratory birds.

In the Sierra Norte of Oaxaca, 23 communities with a total area of over 500,000 acres have zoned their territory so that 78% of it is forested for sustainable production and conservation, leaving the remainder for agriculture and other uses.

Brown frog on mossy rock.
Charadrahyla esperancensis, a tree frog discovered in a cloud forest in Oaxaca in 2017. Canseco-Márquez, et al., 2017, CC BY-ND

The Sierra Norte community of Pueblos Mancomunados manages its 78,000 acres mostly as a community park focused on ecotourism. Foresters cut trees only to control bark beetle outbreaks. Zapotec Indigenous people have lived here for over 1,000 years, and residents have practiced sustainable logging for decades.

This region has some of the highest biodiversity in Mexico. New species are commonly discovered here, such as Charadrahyla esperancensis, a tree frog with a protruding snout.

Community forests reduce poverty

Over a 20-year period, from 1993 to 2013, the thickly forested landscape of Sierra Norte has also produced 3 million metric tons of timber and carbon, mostly stored in furniture and construction materials. By storing carbon in long-lasting products, sustainably managed forests actually capture more carbon than strictly conserved forests

These operations also benefit local economies. In a 2019 study, Mexican researcher Juan Manuel Torres-Rojo and colleagues found that in a sample of over 5,000 Mexican forest communities, government support for forestry, particularly for investments in social and human capital, significantly reduced poverty.

The most serious challenges confronting community forests are the impacts of organized crime. Gangs charge communities in several states protection money and reportedly have physically taken over community forest businesses in some northern states.

Illegal logging is also a serious problem, but it is concentrated in communities that are not managing their forests. Mexican community forests are less vulnerable to stresses like the deforestation, fire and drought that threaten large swaths of the Amazon basin because neighboring communities depend on their forests for their livelihoods and constantly monitor them.

Foresters outdoors in hard hats and safety vests.
Community forest workers in Vencedores, Durango, Mexico with author David Bray (third from right). David Bray, CC BY-NC-ND

Giving communities control helps land

Governments of developing countries often have little money to manage protected land. Giving communities control over valuable forests and the resources to manage them is an affordable alternative.

Mexico’s community forests sustain themselves and generate profits. They do not depend on government subsidies, although they have received them over the years, as a pro-community forest public policy initiative. In my view, mobilizing community collective action around timber – a product that, unlike most small farmer crops, virtually always has a good price – is a market-oriented way to stop deforestation and conserve biodiversity.

However, many governments don’t have the political will to give this kind of ownership, management authority, training and equipment to local communities. I believe that if the results achieved in Mexico were more widely known, they could help convince other governments that promoting community forestry can deliver political stability, poverty reduction and a more livable climate.

David Bray, Professor of Earth and Environment, Florida International University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Coalition of multinational companies issues report on reducing deforestation

Read the full story in Food Business News.

A coalition of 20 global retailers and manufacturers, including PepsiCo, Inc., Nestle SA and Mondelez International, on Sept. 23 published its first annual report detailing progress in reducing deforestation.

Jane Goodall on how to change minds and why she isn’t ruling out Bigfoot

Read the full story in GQ.

Long before you entertained daily panicked thoughts about the climate apocalypse and the decimation of the planet, Jane Goodall was deep in the jungle and learning about this stuff early and firsthand. After capturing the public imagination in the ’60s for her work studying chimpanzees in the Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania, she left in the ’80s to focus on activism and conservation, turning countless people onto the wonders of the natural world.

Now 87, Goodall is as busy as ever. Her most recent initiative, which launched this week, is a campaign called Trees for Jane. It aims to get one trillion trees planted by 2030 to restore lost forestation and mitigate the effects of climate change. “As you know, I spent time in the forest studying chimpanzees,” she says. “I realized the tremendous importance of forests with their interconnected ecosystems, where every little species has a role to play.”

State of the Union: 9 green initiatives you need to know about

Read the full story at ENDS Europe.

The European Commission will spend more on international climate and biodiversity finance, promote ‘green hydrogen’ investment in Africa, and propose an array of new legislative files tackling environmental problems. Here’s what you need to know.

Here are the 23 species the Interior Department declared extinct

Read the full story at The Hill.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) on Wednesday confirmed the extinction of 22 animal species and one plant that had previously been listed under the Endangered Species Act.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland warned that climate change will exacerbate the conditions that led to their extinction, saying “now is the time to lift up proactive, collaborative, and innovative efforts to save America’s wildlife.”

Museum collections reflect species abundance in the wild

Read the full story at

New research published in the journal Methods in Ecology and Evolution compared museum collection specimens to abundance in the wild. The research was the collaboration of 19 scientists from the United States and Europe. The researchers analyzed 1.4 million field observations and 73,000 museum records, comprising more than 22,000 species.

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