Religion and conservation

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

Grzegorz Mikusińskia1 *, Hugh P. Possinghama2 and Malgorzata Blicharskaa3 c1

a1 Department of Ecology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Grimsö Wildlife Research Station, Riddarhyttan, Sweden

a2 Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions, School of Biological Sciences, University of Queensland, St Lucia, Australia

a3 Department of Aquatic Sciences and Assessment, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Box 7050, SE-750 07 Uppsala, Sweden.


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.

(Received December 26 2011)

(Revised February 13 2012)

(Accepted June 18 2012)

(Online publication August 28 2013)


  • Biodiversity templates;
  • environmental attitudes;
  • environmental ethics;
  • religion


c1 (Corresponding author) E-mail malgorzata.blicharska@slu.se


*  Also at: School for Forest Management, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Skinnskatteberg, Sweden