UK's wildlife gets far more attention than tropical hotspots

 作者:佴慈     |      日期:2019-03-07 11:13:07
Iing Iryantoro By Fred Pearce Pity the Javan warty pig. Highly endangered in its native Indonesia, the ungulate could do with some research support. But in 2014, it garnered just one academic paper, not nearly as many as were published on the wild boar, a global species in no danger of extinction. The wild boar’s reintroduction to Scotland alone was the subject of 12 research studies. For wild pigs – and pretty much any wildlife – where they live has far more to do with the attention they receive than how endangered they are, says Kerrie Wilson of the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. In a study of 10,000 conservation papers published in a thousand journals during 2014, Wilson and colleagues uncovered a “massive mismatch” between conservation needs and research effort that is undermining our ability to protect the world’s at-risk species. While the US racked up more than a thousand papers, the conservation needs of countries like Mali, Libya, Afghanistan and Tonga managed none at all. “We know that in these under-studied countries, there is much biodiversity that hasn’t even been documented,” says Wilson. Ecuador, Indonesia, Madagascar and Peru — which are four of the ten most biodiverse nations on Earth — were collectively the subject of just 254 papers. That is roughly 3 per cent of the total, and only five papers more than the UK, which is notoriously biodiversity-poor. Parts of Ecuador contain 100,000 species of insects in a single acre – more than the entire species biodiversity of the UK. In 2014, researchers published only 16 papers on the 4600 vertebrate species under threat in rapidly deforesting Papua New Guinea, says Wilson, “whereas there were at least six publications on one British species, the red squirrel”. “If you dig a little deeper, it gets worse,” says Wilson. “The science conducted in these countries is often not led by scientists based in those countries.” None of the 16 Papua New Guinea papers were led by a local research institution. Only 22 per cent of papers on Ecuadorian conservation were written by locals, with Madagascans contributing only 14 per cent of local studies, Peruvians 10 per cent and Panamanians 5 per cent. Compare that with 93 per cent home-grown research in the US, and 94 per cent in Australia. The UK was a little less parochial, with 77 per cent. Researchers at the International Union for Conservation of Nature and elsewhere told New Scientist that there is a strong “northern bias” in much conservation research, saying that this is because of inadequate scientific infrastructure in many countries with high biodiversity, rather than because of any desire on the part of rich nations to dominate the field. But the pattern crosses over into policy-making too. Wilson’s team found that the chairs of specialist groups at the IUCN, whose tasks include compiling the internationally accepted Red List of endangered species, are overwhelmingly held by experts from a handful of rich nations. Of 182 group chairs, 44 were based in the US, and 39 in the UK. Meanwhile Ecuador, Peru, Papua New Guinea and a host of other biodiversity hotspots had no chairs at all. “More can and should be done,” says Simon Stuart, a British researcher who chairs the IUCN’s species survival commission. But he rejects any suggestion of conservation colonialism. “The patterns reflect the uneven distribution of scientific capacity round the world,” he says. “Relatively few scientists from such developing countries have the institutional support base needed to take up such leadership positions.” Wilson is calling on researchers, policy-makers and funding agencies to focus on areas with the greatest need. Journal reference: PLOS Biology, DOI: 10.1037/journal.pbio.1002413 More on these topics: