Identification skills in biodiversity professionals and laypeople: A gap in species literacy

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Abstract

Biodiversity is in worldwide decline and it is becoming increasingly important to expand biodiversity awareness and achieve broad-based support for conservation. We introduce the concept of species literacy, as knowledge about species can be a good starting point for engaging people in biodiversity. However, concern has been raised about a general lack of knowledge about native species. We explored species literacy via a species identification test in the Netherlands, and we investigated potential drivers of it. The dataset included 3210 general public participants, 602 primary school children aged 9/10, and 938 biodiversity professionals. A considerable gap in species literacy was found between professionals and laypeople. Knowledge about common, native animals was particularly low in children, who on average identified only 35% of the species correctly. Mammals received relatively high identification scores as compared to birds. Laypeople's species literacy increased with age and educational level, and was associated with positive attitudes towards nature and animals, media exposure and having a garden. The results indicate that a considerable part of the Dutch lay public is disconnected from native biodiversity. This points to a separation between people and nature that could hinder future efforts to preserve biodiversity. Our assessment can help bridge the gap between laypeople and professionals, as it can help set up communication and education strategies about native biodiversity that fit prior knowledge.

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Hooykaas, M. J. D., Schilthuizen, M., Aten, C., Hemelaar, E. M., Albers, C. J., & Smeets, I. (2019). Identification skills in biodiversity professionals and laypeople: A gap in species literacy. Biological Conservation, 238. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2019.108202

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