Religious leaders can be key to biological diversity

September 05, 2013

Leaders of the major world religions can play a key role in preserving biological diversity. A new study carried out by ecologists at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), among others, indicates that if the world's religious leaders wished to bring about a change, they would be ideally positioned to do so.

- Our study investigates how the various religions are distributed around the world and how they overlap areas that are important for global biological diversity, says Grzegorz Mikusinski, a researcher at SLU who directs the project. Our analysis indicates that the majority of the most important areas lie in countries dominated by Christianity, especially Roman Catholicism.

Most countries in Latin America belong to that category: Roman Catholic and with areas of importance for biological diversity. There is also a certain amount of overlapping of areas important for biodiversity and areas that are Buddhist (Southeast Asia), Hindu (Indian subcontinent), or Muslim (Asia Minor and parts of North and Central Africa).

- We believe that members of religious groups, guided by a moral resolution to preserve the world's natural resources for coming generations, can implement a conservation agenda both in their daily lives and in their political activities, says Grzegorz Mikusinski.

Religions strive to be morally good and for centuries have led people in terms of right and wrong. Therefore, says Grzegorz Mikusinski, they have the potential to guide them to "miracles" also when it comes to conservation in the places where the religion has a great influence on society.

- The results show that Roman Catholics, per capita, have the greatest potential to preserve biological diversity where they live, says Hugh Possingham, a researcher at University of Queensland, Australia, and a co-author of the study.

The Catholic Church has just elected a pope, Francis - a name associated with the Catholic Church's "greenest" saint, Francis of Assisi, the special patron saint of ecology. Let us hope that he and other religious leaders seriously consider the possibility of becoming more involved in the conservation debate. But at the same time scientists need to more actively encourage religious leaders to take part in such a debate.

Many solutions have been proposed to halt the loss of biological diversity. But the notion of conservation has seldom become part of daily life, either among individuals or among nations.

- Conservation research needs to adjust its focus, toward strategies that can change people's ethical attitudes toward nature and encourage modes of thinking and lifestyles that are good for the environment, says Malgorzata Blicharska, a researcher at SLU and a co-author of the study. Religions are central to fundamental beliefs and ethics that influence people, and they should be taken more seriously in the debate about biological diversity.
-end-
The study is published in the scientific journal Oryx. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0030605312000993

Swedish Research Council

Related Conservation Articles from Brightsurf:

New guide on using drones for conservation
Drones are a powerful tool for conservation - but they should only be used after careful consideration and planning, according to a new report.

Elephant genetics guide conservation
A large-scale study of African elephant genetics in Tanzania reveals the history of elephant populations, how they interact, and what areas may be critical to conserve in order to preserve genetic diversity of the species.

Measuring the true cost of conservation
BU Professor created the first high-resolution map of land value in the United states.

Environmental groups moving beyond conservation
Although non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have become powerful voices in world environmental politics, little is known of the global picture of this sector.

Hunting for the next generation of conservation stewards
Wildlife ecology students become the professionals responsible for managing the biodiversity of natural systems for species conservation.

Conservation research on lynx
Scientists at the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) and the Leibniz Institute for Molecular Pharmacology (Leibniz-FMP) discovered that selected anti-oxidative enzymes, especially the enzyme superoxide dismutase (SOD2), may play an important role to maintain the unusual longevity of the corpus luteum in lynxes.

New 'umbrella' species would massively improve conservation
The protection of Australia's threatened species could be improved by a factor of seven, if more efficient 'umbrella' species were prioritised for protection, according to University of Queensland research.

Trashed farmland could be a conservation treasure
Low-productivity agricultural land could be transformed into millions of hectares of conservation reserve across the world, according to University of Queensland-led research.

Bats in attics might be necessary for conservation
Researchers investigate and describe the conservation importance of buildings relative to natural, alternative roosts for little brown bats in Yellowstone National Park.

Applying biodiversity conservation research in practice
One million species are threatened with extinction, many of them already in the coming decades.

Read More: Conservation News and Conservation Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.