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How contact with nature affects children’s biophilia, biophobia and conservation attitude

Key Message

Children's contact with nature nurtures positive attitudes to wildlife, which significantly enhances their willingness to support animal conservation in China..


Zhang, Weizhe, Eben Goodale and Jin Chen. (2014). How contact with nature affects children’s biophilia, biophobia and conservation attitude in China. Biological Conservation. 177(2014): 109-116.


The widening gap between humans and nature may breed apathy towards environmental concerns and wildlife, which would not bode well for the future of biodiversity conservation. However, the consequences of the decline in physical contact with nature are poorly understood, especially in China, due to its rate of urbanization.

This study aims to understand how contact with nature affects children’s propensity for biophilia and biophobia, and their conservation attitudes. The study defines biophilia and biophobia as children’s affective attitudes (like and fear) toward common wild animals,

Fifteen schools with different degrees of urbanization were selected and 1119 pupils aged 9–10 filled out questionnaires. The students reported how frequently they engaged in fifteen outdoor activities, and these scores were summed together to produce a measurement of their contact with nature. The participants were shown twelve specimens of common wild animals in order to examine their biophilia and biophobia, and their willingness to conserve animals.


Children from urban schools had less contact with nature than those from rural schools, although this result was only marginally significant because of one outlying rural school. The children’s contact with nature was significantly positively related to their biophilia and negatively related to their biophobia. Children’s biophilia, in turn, significantly affected their willingness to conserve animals, and, to a lesser extent, their general attitudes about conservation.

Benefit Statements / Outcomes

Leadership Provided By:

  • Leisure Information Network (LIN)
  • Alberta Recreation and Parks Association

On Behalf Of:

  • Canadian Parks and Recreation Association (CPRAA)

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