Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

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.

Corresponding author
(Corresponding author) E-mail
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

J.M. Acheson (2006) Institutional failure in resource management. Annual Review of Anthropology, 35, 117134.

D. Barry & M. Oelschlaeger (1996) A science for survival: values and conservation biology. Conservation Biology, 10, 905911.

S. Bergmann (2009) Religion in dangerous environmental change. IOP Conference Series: Earth and Environmental Science, 6, 572019.

S.A. Bhagwat , N. Dudley & S.R. Harrop (2011b) Religious following in biodiversity hotspots: challenges and opportunities for conservation and development. Conservation Letters, 4, 234240.

S.A. Bhagwat , A.A. Ormsby & C. Rutte (2011a) The role of religion in linking conservation and development: challenges and opportunities. Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, 5, 3960.

S.A. Bhagwat & M. Palmer (2009) Conservation: the world's religions can help. Nature, 461, 37.

S.A. Bhagwat & C. Rutte (2006) Sacred groves: potential for biodiversity management. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 4, 519524.

J.M. Boyd (1984) The role of religion in conservation. Environmentalist, 4, 4044.

T.M. Brooks , R.A. Mittermeier , G.A.B. da Fonseca , J. Gerlach , M. Hoffmann , J.F. Lamoreux (2006) Global biodiversity conservation priorities. Science, 313, 5861.

D. Bryant , D. Nielsen & L. Tangley (1997) The Last Frontier Forests: Ecosystems and Economies on the Edge. World Resources Institute, Washington, DC, USA.

D. Demeritt (2001) The construction of global warming and the politics of science. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 91, 307337.

N. Dudley , L. Higgins-Zogib & S. Mansourian (2009) The links between protected areas, faiths, and sacred natural sites. Conservation Biology, 23, 568577.

G.T. Gardner & P.C. Stern (2002) Environmental Problems and Human Behaviour, 2nd edition. Pearson Custom Publishing, Boston, USA.

M. Hall , J. Grim & M.E. Tucker (2009) Need for religions to promote values of conservation. Nature, 462, 720.

C. Hepburn (2007) Carbon trading: a review of the Kyoto Mechanisms. Annual Review of Environment and Resources, 32, 375393.

R.J. Hobbs & J.A. Harris (2001) Restoration ecology: repairing the Earth's ecosystems in the new millennium. Restoration Ecology, 9, 239246.

J.M. Hoekstra , T.M. Boucher , T.H. Ricketts & C. Roberts (2005) Confronting a biome crisis: global disparities of habitat loss and protection. Ecology Letters, 8, 2329.

L. Hongmao , X. Zaifu , X. Youkai & W. Jinxiu (2002) Practice of conserving plant diversity through traditional beliefs: a case study in Xishuangbanna, southwest China. Biodiversity and Conservation, 11, 705713.

C. Knill & A. Lenschow (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.

A. MacIntyre (1981) After Virtue. University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame, USA.

F.M. Mangunjaya (2011) Developing environmental awareness and conservation through Islamic teaching. Journal of Islamic Studies, 22, 3649.

L.D. Mee , H.T. Dublin & A.A. Eberhard (2008) Evaluating the Global Environment Facility: a goodwill gesture or a serious attempt to deliver global benefits? Global Environmental Change, 18, 800810.

R. Mittermeier , P.R. Gil , M. Hoffmann , J.D. Pilgrim , T.M. Brooks , C.G. Mittermeier (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.

R.A. Mittermeier , C.G. Mittermeier , T.M. Brooks , J.D. Pilgrim , W.R. Konstant , G.A.B. da Fonseca & C. Kormos (2003) Wilderness and biodiversity conservation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 100, 1030910313.

M.S. Northcott (2011) Anthropogenic climate change, political liberalism and the communion of saints. Studies in Christian Ethics, 24, 3449.

D.M. Olson & E. Dinerstein (1998) The global 200: a representation approach to conserving the Earth's most biologically valuable ecoregions. Conservation Biology, 12, 502515.

S.L. Pimm , G.J. Russel , J.L. Gittleman & T.M. Brooks (1995) The future of biodiversity. Science, 269, 347350.

D.A. Posey (ed.) (2000) Cultural and Spiritual Values of Biodiversity. Intermediate Technology, London, UK.

M.R.W. Rands , W.M. Adams , L. Bennun , S.H.M. Butchart , A. Clements , D. Coomes (2010) Biodiversity conservation: challenges beyond 2010. Science, 329, 12981303.

F. Rauschmayer , J. Paavola & H. Wittmer (2009) European governance of natural resources and participation in a multi-level context: an editorial. Environmental Policy and Governance, 19, 141147.

J. Rockström , W. Steffen , K. Noone , Å. Persson , F.S. Chapin III, R.F. Lambin (2009) A safe operating space for humanity. Nature, 461, 472475.

J. Rosales (2006) Economic growth and biodiversity loss in an age of tradable permits. Conservation Biology, 20, 10421050.

N.S. Sodhi , R. Butler , W.F. Laurance & L. Gibson (2011) Conservation successes at micro-, meso- and macroscales. Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 26, 585594.

E. Stokstad (2010) Despite progress biodiversity declines. Science, 329, 12721273.

D. Tilman (2000) Causes, consequences and ethics of biodiversity. Nature, 405, 208211.

A. Toynbee (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.

K.S. Van Houtan (2006) Conservation as virtue: a scientific and social process for conservation ethics. Conservation Biology, 20, 13671372.

L. White Jr. (1967) The historical roots of our ecologic crisis. Science, 155, 12031207.

E. Whitney (1993) Lynn White, ecotheology, and history. Environmental Ethics, 15, 151169.

R. Worrel & M.C. Appleby (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? *