Skip to main content

Biodiversity priority areas and religions—a global analysis of spatial overlap

  • Grzegorz Mikusiński (a1), Hugh P. Possingham (a2) and Malgorzata Blicharska (a3)

Numerous solutions have been proposed to slow the accelerating loss of biodiversity. Thinking about biodiversity conservation has not, however, been incorporated into the everyday activities of most individuals and nations. Conservation scientists need to refocus on strategies that reshape ethical attitudes to nature and encourage pro-environmental thinking and lifestyles. Religions are central to basic beliefs and ethics that influence people's behaviour and should be considered more seriously in biodiversity discourse. Using data from the World Religion Database we conducted an analysis of the spatial overlap between major global religions and seven templates for prioritizing biodiversity action. Our analysis indicated that the majority of these focal areas are situated in countries dominated by Christianity, and particularly the Roman Catholic denomination. Moreover, the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches appear to have the greatest per capita opportunity to influence discourse on biodiversity, notwithstanding the role of other religious communities in some key biodiversity areas.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Biodiversity priority areas and religions—a global analysis of spatial overlap
      Available formats
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Biodiversity priority areas and religions—a global analysis of spatial overlap
      Available formats
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Biodiversity priority areas and religions—a global analysis of spatial overlap
      Available formats
Corresponding author
(Corresponding author) E-mail
Hide All
Acheson, J.M. (2006) Institutional failure in resource management. Annual Review of Anthropology, 35, 117134.
Barry, D. & Oelschlaeger, M. (1996) A science for survival: values and conservation biology. Conservation Biology, 10, 905911.
Bergmann, S. (2009) Religion in dangerous environmental change. IOP Conference Series: Earth and Environmental Science, 6, 572019.
Bhagwat, S.A., Dudley, N. & Harrop, S.R. (2011b) Religious following in biodiversity hotspots: challenges and opportunities for conservation and development. Conservation Letters, 4, 234240.
Bhagwat, S.A., Ormsby, A.A. & Rutte, C. (2011a) The role of religion in linking conservation and development: challenges and opportunities. Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, 5, 3960.
Bhagwat, S.A. & Palmer, M. (2009) Conservation: the world's religions can help. Nature, 461, 37.
Bhagwat, S.A. & Rutte, C. (2006) Sacred groves: potential for biodiversity management. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 4, 519524.
Boyd, J.M. (1984) The role of religion in conservation. Environmentalist, 4, 4044.
Brooks, T.M., Mittermeier, R.A., da Fonseca, G.A.B., Gerlach, J., Hoffmann, M., Lamoreux, J.F. et al. (2006) Global biodiversity conservation priorities. Science, 313, 5861.
Bryant, D., Nielsen, D. & Tangley, L. (1997) The Last Frontier Forests: Ecosystems and Economies on the Edge. World Resources Institute, Washington, DC, USA.
Demeritt, D. (2001) The construction of global warming and the politics of science. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 91, 307337.
Dudley, N., Higgins-Zogib, L. & Mansourian, S. (2009) The links between protected areas, faiths, and sacred natural sites. Conservation Biology, 23, 568577.
Gardner, G.T. & Stern, P.C. (2002) Environmental Problems and Human Behaviour, 2nd edition. Pearson Custom Publishing, Boston, USA.
Gould, S.J. (1997) Non-overlapping magisteria. Natural History, 106, 1624.
Hall, M., Grim, J. & Tucker, M.E. (2009) Need for religions to promote values of conservation. Nature, 462, 720.
Hepburn, C. (2007) Carbon trading: a review of the Kyoto Mechanisms. Annual Review of Environment and Resources, 32, 375393.
Hobbs, R.J. & Harris, J.A. (2001) Restoration ecology: repairing the Earth's ecosystems in the new millennium. Restoration Ecology, 9, 239246.
Hoekstra, J.M., Boucher, T.M., Ricketts, T.H. & Roberts, C. (2005) Confronting a biome crisis: global disparities of habitat loss and protection. Ecology Letters, 8, 2329.
Hongmao, L., Zaifu, X., Youkai, X. & Jinxiu, W. (2002) Practice of conserving plant diversity through traditional beliefs: a case study in Xishuangbanna, southwest China. Biodiversity and Conservation, 11, 705713.
Kanagy, C.L. & Willits, F.K. (1993) A ‘greening’ of religion? some evidence from a Pennsylvania sample. Social Science Quarterly, 74, 674683.
Knill, C. & Lenschow, A. (1998) Coping with Europe: the impact of British and German administrations on the implementation of EU environmental policy. Journal of European Public Policy, 5, 595614.
MacIntyre, A. (1981) After Virtue. University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame, USA.
Mangunjaya, F.M. (2011) Developing environmental awareness and conservation through Islamic teaching. Journal of Islamic Studies, 22, 3649.
Mee, L.D., Dublin, H.T. & Eberhard, A.A. (2008) Evaluating the Global Environment Facility: a goodwill gesture or a serious attempt to deliver global benefits? Global Environmental Change, 18, 800810.
Mittermeier, R., Gil, P.R., Hoffmann, M., Pilgrim, J.D., Brooks, T.M., Mittermeier, C.G. et al. (2004) Hotspots Revisited: Earth's Biologically Richest and Most Endangered Terrestrial Ecoregions. Mexico CEMEX, with Conservation International, Agrupacion Sierra Madre, and University of Virginia, Monterrey, USA.
Mittermeier, R.A., Gil, P.R. & Mittermeier, C.G. (1997) Megadiversity: Earth's Biologically Wealthiest Nations. Mexico CEMEX, Mexico City, Mexico.
Mittermeier, R.A., Mittermeier, C.G., Brooks, T.M., Pilgrim, J.D., Konstant, W.R., da Fonseca, G.A.B. & Kormos, C. (2003) Wilderness and biodiversity conservation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 100, 1030910313.
Northcott, M.S. (2011) Anthropogenic climate change, political liberalism and the communion of saints. Studies in Christian Ethics, 24, 3449.
Olson, D.M. & Dinerstein, E. (1998) The global 200: a representation approach to conserving the Earth's most biologically valuable ecoregions. Conservation Biology, 12, 502515.
Pimm, S.L., Russel, G.J., Gittleman, J.L. & Brooks, T.M. (1995) The future of biodiversity. Science, 269, 347350.
Posey, D.A. (ed.) (2000) Cultural and Spiritual Values of Biodiversity. Intermediate Technology, London, UK.
Rands, M.R.W., Adams, W.M., Bennun, L., Butchart, S.H.M., Clements, A., Coomes, D. et al. (2010) Biodiversity conservation: challenges beyond 2010. Science, 329, 12981303.
Rauschmayer, F., Paavola, J. & Wittmer, H. (2009) European governance of natural resources and participation in a multi-level context: an editorial. Environmental Policy and Governance, 19, 141147.
Rockström, J., Steffen, W., Noone, K., Persson, Å., Chapin, F.S. III, Lambin, R.F. et al. (2009) A safe operating space for humanity. Nature, 461, 472475.
Rosales, J. (2006) Economic growth and biodiversity loss in an age of tradable permits. Conservation Biology, 20, 10421050.
Sodhi, N.S., Butler, R., Laurance, W.F. & Gibson, L. (2011) Conservation successes at micro-, meso- and macroscales. Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 26, 585594.
Stattersfield, A.J., Crosby, M.J., Long, A.J. & Wege, D.C. (1998) Endemic Bird Areas of the World. BirdLife International, Cambridge, UK.
Stokstad, E. (2010) Despite progress biodiversity declines. Science, 329, 12721273.
Tilman, D. (2000) Causes, consequences and ethics of biodiversity. Nature, 405, 208211.
Toynbee, A. (1972) The religious background of the present environmental crisis, a viewpoint. International Journal of Environmental Studies, 3, 141146.
UN (1992) Convention on Biological Diversity. Concluded at Rio de Janeiro on 5 June 1992. United Nations Treaty Series No. 30619.
Van Houtan, K.S. (2006) Conservation as virtue: a scientific and social process for conservation ethics. Conservation Biology, 20, 13671372.
Van Houtan, K.S. (2010) Conservation, biology, and religion. In Conservation Biology For All (eds Sodhi, N. & Ehrlich, P.R.), p. 270. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.
Van Houtan, K.S. & Pimm, S.L. (2006) The various Christian ethics of species conservation. In Religion and the New Ecology: Environmental Responsibility in a World in Flux (eds Lodge, D.M. & Hamlin, C.), pp. 116147. University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame, USA.
White, L. Jr. (1967) The historical roots of our ecologic crisis. Science, 155, 12031207.
Whitney, E. (1993) Lynn White, ecotheology, and history. Environmental Ethics, 15, 151169.
Wilson, E.O. (2006) The Creation: an Appeal to Save Life on Earth. Norton, New York, USA.
Worrel, R. & Appleby, M.C. (2000) Stewardship of natural resources: definition, ethical and practical aspects. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, 12, 263277.
WRD (2010) World Religion Database. Http:// [accessed 9 May 2012].
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

  • ISSN: 0030-6053
  • EISSN: 1365-3008
  • URL: /core/journals/oryx
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 21
Total number of PDF views: 72 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 595 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 19th March 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.