Watching nature documentaries increases people’s interest in plants, motivating them to engage in botany and ecology, according to a new study.
About 40% of plant species are threatened with extinction. Plants that are not immediately useful are particularly vulnerable to humans, who fail to recognize their importance due to a cognitive bias known as the “plant consciousness disparity,” the report said. Sci Tech Daily.
Although people are concerned about endangered animals, threats to plants are more difficult to identify and address. In the United States (US), for example, plants receive less than 4% of federal funding for endangered species, even though they make up 57% of the list.
Although scientists cannot make a clear connection between these television programs and conservation efforts, nature documentaries provide a direct way reach a mass audience and involve them.
In a study recently published in Annals of Botanyresearchers examined whether nature documentaries promote plant awareness, which may ultimately increase public participation in plant conservation programs.
They focused on ‘Green Planet’, a 2022 BBC documentary narrated by David Attenborough. The programme, watched by almost 5 million people in the UK, features a variety of plant species, highlighting vegetation in rainforests, aquatic environments, deserts and urban areas.
The program also directly addresses environmental concerns by addressing hazards invasive monocultures and deforestation.
The researchers analyzed how the documentary sparked interest in plants by exploring people’s search engine behavior at the time of broadcast.
First, they identified the species that appeared on the schedule and when this occurred. They then checked visualizations using Google Trends and Wikipedia for the same genre, before and after the documentary episodes.
The researchers found a substantial effect of the documentary on viewers’ awareness and interest in the plant species depicted. Around 28.1% of search terms representing plants mentioned in ‘Green Planet’ peaked in popularity in the UK in the week following broadcast, information measured through Google Trends.
Almost a third of the plant-related Wikipedia pages mentioned in the documentary saw an increase in visits in the week after the broadcast. The team also noticed that people were more likely to research plants that took up the most time in the episodes.
“I think it’s necessary and exciting to raise public awareness about plants,” said Joanna Kacprzyk, first author of the study.
“In this research, we show that nature documentaries can raising public awareness in relation to plants. Our results also suggest that viewers found certain plant species particularly compelling. These plants could be used to advance plant conservation efforts and address the alarming loss of plant biodiversity.”