Four barriers to the global understanding of biodiversity conservation: wealth, language, geographical location and security
Ecology, environmental science
Global biodiversity conservation is seriously challenged by gaps and heterogeneity in the geographical coverage of existing information. Nevertheless, the key barriers to the collection and compilation of biodiversity information at a global scale have yet to be identified. We show that wealth, language, geographical location and security each play an important role in explaining spatial variations in data availability in four different types of biodiversity databases. The number of records per square kilometre is high in countries with high per capita gross domestic product (GDP), high proportion of English speakers and high security levels, and those located close to the country hosting the database; but these are not necessarily countries with high biodiversity. These factors are considered to affect data availability by impeding either the activities of scientific research or active international communications. Our results demonstrate that efforts to solve environmental problems at a global scale will gain significantly by focusing scientific education, communication, research and collaboration in low-GDP countries with fewer English speakers and located far from Western countries that host the global databases; countries that have experienced conflict may also benefit. Findings of this study may be broadly applicable to other fields that require the compilation of scientific knowledge at a global level.