Evaluating conservation biology texts for bias in biodiversity representation

Last modified: 
July 20, 2020 - 11:50am
Type: Journal Article
Year of publication: 2020
Date published: 07/2020
Authors: Katherine Stahl, Christopher Lepczyk, Rebecca Christoffel
Journal title: PLOS ONE
Volume: 15
Issue: 7
Pages: e0234877

A critical component of textbooks is fair representation of the material they cover. Within conservation biology, fair coverage is particularly important given Earth’s breadth of species and diversity of ecosystems. However, research on species tends to be biased towards certain taxonomic groups and geographic areas and their associated ecosystems, so it is possible that textbooks may exhibit similar biases. Considering the possibility of bias, our goal was to evaluate contemporary conservation biology textbooks to determine if they are representative of Earth’s biodiversity. We found that textbooks did not accurately reflect Earth’s biodiversity. Species, ecosystems, and continents were unevenly represented, few examples mentioned genetic diversity, and examples of negative human influence on the environment outweighed positive examples. However, in terms of aquatic versus terrestrial representation, textbooks presented a representative sample. Our findings suggest that modern conservation biology textbooks are biased in their coverage, which could have important consequences for educating our next generation of scientists and practitioners.

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