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As dead as a dodo? : public understanding and support vis à vis biodiversity and biodiversity loss

Bride, Ian (2002) As dead as a dodo? : public understanding and support vis à vis biodiversity and biodiversity loss. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94234) (KAR id:94234)


The Convention on Biological Diversity and its derivative literature call for increases in public understanding and support as a condition for successful strategies to conserve biodiversity. Yet practically no relevant data exist. This research attempts to redress this situation by exploring UK public understanding and support vis-à-vis biodiversity. It employs a structured in-depth interview as the main data-gathering instrument, applying it to 126 individuals selected according to their relationships to nature and wildlife, their positions in relation to local and regional government decision-making, and their representation of different occupationally-based social classes. The findings, if representative of the wider population, suggest that the public’s understanding of biodiversity is poor, its levels of participation in efforts to conserve it are low, that attitudes towards biodiversity per se are largely non-existent, but that there is a considerable amount of interest in wildlife and nature.

In looking at ways in which biodiversity education might be developed, consideration is given to the influences and debates that are likely to have greatest influence, and to the potential sources for this education. The principle obstacle to an effective biodiversity education is identified as the science/public divide, but the characteristics of biodiversity as a subject are recognised as enabling it to form a bridge between the two. Stables’ (1998) three-tier conceptualisation of literacy is adopted as part of the framework for assessing the different sources of biodiversity education, and some, notably wildlife gardening and wildlife NGO activities, are found to provide significant opportunities in this respect. Given the nature of the subject and the research findings, it is argued that a good level of literacy should be coupled with good communication skills and the ability to address the issues beyond the science base to include the social, cultural, political, moral and aesthetic aspects. It is concluded that those best qualified to provide ‘critical biodiversity literacy’ should perhaps be sought in the discipline conservation biology rather than that of environmental education. The ramifications of the research for implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity are considered. Recommendations for further research and biodiversity education are also made.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94234
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 25 April 2022 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Uncontrolled keywords: Convention on Biological Diversity
Subjects: Q Science
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Natural Sciences > Biosciences
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 06 Jun 2023 14:34 UTC
Last Modified: 20 Nov 2023 15:37 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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