Growth of non-English-language literature on biodiversity conservation

Shawan Chowdhury, Kristofer Gonzalez, M. Çisel Kemahlı Aytekin, Seung Yun Baek, Michał Bełcik, Sandro Bertolino, Sjoerd Duijns, Yuqing Han, Kerstin Jantke, Ryosuke Katayose, Mu Ming Lin, Elham Nourani, Danielle Leal Ramos, Marie Morgane Rouyer, William Sidemo-Holm, Svetlana Vozykova, Veronica Zamora-Gutierrez, Tatsuya Amano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


English is widely recognized as the language of science, and English-language publications (ELPs) are rapidly increasing. It is often assumed that the number of non-ELPs is decreasing. This assumption contributes to the underuse of non-ELPs in conservation science, practice, and policy, especially at the international level. However, the number of conservation articles published in different languages is poorly documented. Using local and international search systems, we searched for scientific articles on biodiversity conservation published from 1980 to 2018 in English and 15 non-English languages. We compared the growth rate in publications across languages. In 12 of the 15 non-English languages, published conservation articles significantly increased every year over the past 39 years, at a rate similar to English-language articles. The other three languages showed contrasting results, depending on the search system. Since the 1990s, conservation science articles in most languages increased exponentially. The variation in the number of non-English-language articles identified among the search systems differed markedly (e.g., for simplified Chinese, 11,148 articles returned with local search system and 803 with Scopus). Google Scholar and local literature search systems returned the most articles for 11 and 4 non-English languages, respectively. However, the proportion of peer-reviewed conservation articles published in non-English languages was highest in Scopus, followed by Web of Science and local search systems, and lowest in Google Scholar. About 20% of the sampled non-English-language articles provided no title or abstract in English; thus, in theory, they were undiscoverable with English keywords. Possible reasons for this include language barriers and the need to disseminate research in countries where English is not widely spoken. Given the known biases in statistical methods and study characteristics between English- and non-English-language studies, non-English-language articles will continue to play an important role in improving the understanding of biodiversity and its conservation.

Original languageEnglish
JournalConservation Biology
StatePublished - 3 Feb 2022


  • barrera del lenguaje
  • bases de datos de la biodiversidad mundial
  • biodiversity information
  • evidence synthesis
  • global biodiversity databases
  • idiomas
  • información sobre la biodiversidad
  • language barrier
  • languages
  • publication bias
  • sesgo de publicación
  • síntesis de evidencias
  • 生物多样性信息;证据综合;全球生物多样性数据库;语言;语言障碍;出版偏向


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