Google Trends and cycles of public interest in biodiversity: the animal spirits effect

Abstract

The paper introduces the idea of using Google Trends search query volumes for both economic and biodiversity-related terms and keywords as data source in order to produce a composite but simple indicator-early warning sign of public interest in conservation co-evolving with citizens’ concerns about economy and unemployment. The behavior of this indicator is examined mainly in the context of the European Union Member States facing the effects of economic recession after the 2008 economic crisis. Four EuroArea Member States (Germany, Greece, Italy and The Netherlands) representing various facets of the combination of biodiversity and economy conditions are used as examples of the characteristics of this indicator, during a ten year period, extending equally before and after the eruption of economic crisis. Results indicate that such an indicator uncovers that public interest in biodiversity does decelerate worldwide, in the European Union and in the four studied cases; however, an explanation of this decreasing trend as being part of larger cycles in public interest that resonate with some hysteresis with cycles of economy offers a more promising view of the phenomenon. The hypothesis that public interest in biodiversity is driven by “animal spirits”, according to Keynes’ prediction is formulated and its significance regarding communication and strategy of conservation is debated.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7

Data retrieved: Eurostat http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/tgm/table.do?tab=table&language=en&pcode=teilm020&tableSelection=1&plugin=1, on August 10, 2014. U-B: Google Trends on August 1, 2014; averaged values for each year

References

  1. Akerlof GA, Shiller RJ (2009) Animal spirits. Princeton University Press, New Jersey

    Google Scholar 

  2. Anderreg WRL, Goldsmith GR (2014) Public interest in climate change over the past decade and the effects of the ‘climate’ media event. Environ Res Lett 9:054005. doi:10.1088/1748-9326/9/5/054005

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Andrew L, Arndt D, Beristain N, Cass T, Clow L, Colmenares B, Damm K, Hatcher R, Jackson N, Pasquesi W, Chamberlain-Pham N, Pryd JA, Rund T, Russell G, Ryle C, Schmidt T, Sigan S, Sinkus K, Sneyd K, Strode J, Wallen C, McCallum ML (2016) Changes in United States’ citizens’ interest in sustainability. Life Excit Biol 4(3):138–164. doi:10.9784/LEB4(3)Andrew.01

    Google Scholar 

  4. Anielski M (2007) The economics of happiness: building genuine wealth. New Society Publishers, Canada, p 288

    Google Scholar 

  5. Barnosky AD (2010) Halfway there. Kyoto J 75. http://ib.berkeley.edu/labs/barnosky/KyotoJournalbarnosky650.pdf

  6. Barrett CB, Travis AJ, Dasgupta P (2011) On biodiversity conservation and poverty traps. PNAS 108:13907–13912

    CAS  Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  7. Beatie W, Ehrlich PR (2001) Wild solutions: how biodiversity is money in the bank. Yale University Press, Yale

    Google Scholar 

  8. Bernheim BD (2008) Behavioral welfare economics. Working Paper 14622, National Bureau of Economic Research. http://www.nber.org/papers/w14622

  9. Butchart SHM, Walpole M, Collen B, van Strien A, Scharlemann JPW, Almond REA, Baillie JEM, Bomhard B, Brown C, Bruno J, Carpenter KE, Carr GM, Chanson J, Chenery AM, Csirke J, Davidson NC, Dentener F, Foster M, Galli A, Galloway JN, Genovesi P, Gregory RD, Hockings M, Kapos V, Lamarque J-F, Leverington F, Loh J, McGeoch MA, McRae L, Minasyan A, Hernández Morcillo M, Oldfield TEE, Pauly D, Quader S, Revenga C, Sauer JR, Skolnik B, Spear D, Stanwell-Smith D, Stuart SN, Symes A, Tierney M, Tyrrell TD, Vié J-C, Watson R (2010) Global biodiversity: indicators of recent declines. Science 328:1164–1168

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  10. Ceballos G, Ehrlich PR, Barnosky AD, García A, Pringle RM, Palmer TM (2015) Accelerated modern human–induced species losses: entering the sixth mass extinction. Sci Adv 1(5):e1400253. doi:10.1126/sciadv.1400253

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  11. Choi H, Varian H (2012) Predicting the present with Google Trends. Econ Rec 88:2–9

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Cohn-Bendit D (2010) Que faire? Pluriel, Paris

    Google Scholar 

  13. Coondoo D, Dinda S (2002) Causality between income and emission: a country group-specific econometric analysis. Ecol Econ 40:351–367

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Diaz S, Demissew S, Carabias J, Joly C, Lonsdale M, Ash N, Larigauderie A, Adhikari JR, Arico S, Baldi A, Bartuska A, Baste IA, Bilgin A, Brondizio E, Chan KMA, Figueroa VE, Duraiappah A, Fischer M, Hill R, Koetz T, Leadley P, Lyver P, Mace GM, Martin-Lopez B, Okumura M, Pacheco D, Pascual U, Perez ES, Reyers B, Roth E, Saito O, Scholes RJ, Sharma N, Tallis H, Thaman R, Watson R, Yahara T, Hamid ZA, Akosim C, Al-Hafedh Y, Allahverdiyev R, Amankwah E, Asah ST, Asfaw Z, Bartus G, Brooks LA, Caillaux J, Dalle G, Darnaedi D, Driver A, Erpul G, Escobar-Eyzaguirre P, Failler P, Fouda AMM, Fu B, Gundimeda H, Hashimoto S, Homer F, Lavorel S, Lichtenstein G, Mala WA, Mandivenyi W, Matczak P, Mbizvo C, Mehrdadi M, Metzger JP, Mikissa JB, Moller H, Mooney HA, Mumby P, Nagendra H, Nesshover C, Oteng-Yeboah AA, Pataki G, Roue M, Rubis J, Schultz M, Smith P, Sumaila R, Takeuchi K, Thomas S, Verma M, Yeo-Chang Y, Zlatanova D (2015) The IPBES conceptual framework—connecting nature and people. Curr Opin Environ Sustain 14(1):1–16

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Dietz S, Adger WN (2003) Economic growth, biodiversity loss and conservation effort. J Environ Manage 68:23–35

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  16. Do Y, Kim JY, Lineman M, Kim D-K, Joo GJ (2014) Using internet search behavior to assess public awareness of protected wetlands. Conserv Biol 29(1):271–279

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  17. Dressel S, Sandström C, Ericsson G (2015) A meta-analysis of studies on attitudes toward bears and wolves across Europe 1976–2012. Conserv Biol 29(2):565–574

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  18. Farley J (2008) The role of prices in conserving critical natural capital. Conserv Biol 22:1399–1408

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  19. Farnworth MJ, Watson H, Adams NJ (2014) Understanding attitudes toward the control of nonnative wild and feral mammals: similarities and differences in the opinions of the general public, animal protectionists, and conservationists in New Zealand (Aotearoa). J Appl Anim Welf Sci 17(1):1–17

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  20. Ficetola GF (2013) Is interest toward the environment really declining? The complexity of analysing trends using internet search data. Biodivers Conserv 22:2983–2988

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Fischer A, Young JA (2007) Understanding mental constructs of biodiversity: implications for biodiversity management and conservation. Biol Conserv 136:271–282

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Fischer A, Bednar-Friedl B, Langers F, Dobrovodskα Μ, Geamana Ν, Skogen Κ, Dumortier Μ (2011) Universal criteria for species conservation priorities? Findings from a survey of public views across Europe. Biol Conserv 144(3):998–1007

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Flash Barometer (2007, 2010, 2013). Attitudes towards biodiversity. Report 219; 290; 379. http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/flash/pdf

  24. Funk SM, Rusowsky D (2014) The importance of cultural knowledge and scale for analysing internet search data as a proxy for public interest toward the environment. Biodivers Conserv 23:3101–3112

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Gangaas KE, Kaltenborn BP, Andreassen HP (2015) Environmental attitudes associated with large-scale cultural differences, not local environmental conflicts. Environ Conserv 42(1):41–50

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Geishecker I, Siedler T (2012) Job loss fears and (Extremist) Party identification: First evidence from panel data. IZA DP No. 6996

  27. Ginsberg J, Mohebbi MH, Patel RS, Brammer L, Smolinski MS, Brilliant L (2009) Detecting influenza epidemics using search engine query data. Nature 457:1012–1014

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  28. Gowdy J, Hall C, Klitgaard K, Krall L (2010) What every conservation biologist should know about economic theory. Conserv Biol 24:1440–1447

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  29. Greenhalgh L, Rosenblatt Z (1984) Job insecurity: toward conceptual clarity source. Acad Manag Rev 9(3):438–448

    Google Scholar 

  30. Gupta J, Termeer C, Klostermann J, Meijerink S, van der Brink M, Jong P, Nooteboom S, Bergsma E (2010) The adaptive capacity wheel: a method to assess the inherent characteristics of institutions to enable the adaptive capacity of society. Environ Sci Policy 13:459–471

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Hofstede G (1984) The cultural relativity of the quality of life concept. Acad Manag Rev 9(3):389–398. doi:10.5465/amr.1984.4279653

    Google Scholar 

  32. Internet World Stats (2016) Internet World users by language. http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats7.htm

  33. Jepson P, Canney S (2003) Values-led conservation. Glob Ecol Biogeogr 12:271–274

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Johns D (2007) Like it or not, Politics is the solution. Conserv Biol 21(2):287–288

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  35. Johnston DW, Lordan G (2014) When work disappears: racial prejudice and recession labour market penalties. LSE/CEP DP No. 1257

  36. Keynes JM (1936) The general theory of employment, interest and money. Macmillan, London

    Google Scholar 

  37. Kim JY, Do Y, Im R-Y, Kim G-Y, Joo G-J (2014) Use of large web-based data to identify public interest and trends related to endangered species. Biodivers Conserv 23:2961–2984

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Kriss PH, Loewenstein G, Wang X, Weber RA (2011) Behind the veil of ignorance: self-serving bias in climate change negotiations. Judgm Decis Mak 6:602–615

    Google Scholar 

  39. Kristoufek L (2013) Bitcoin meets Google Trends and Wikipedia: quantifying the realtionship between phenomena of the Internet era. Sci Rep 3:3415. doi:10.1038/srep03415

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  40. MacDonald K (2010) Business, biodiversity and new “fields” of conservation: the world conservation congress and the renegotiation of organizational order. Conserv Soc 8:256–275

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Maslow AH (1954) Motivation and personality. Harper, New York

    Google Scholar 

  42. McCallum ML, Bury GW (2013) Google search patterns suggest declining interest in the environment. Biodivers Conserv 22:1355–1367

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. McCallum ML, Bury GW (2014) Public interest in the environment is falling: a response to Ficetola (2013). Biodivers Conserv 23:1057–1062

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. Merton RK (1938) Social structure and anomie. Am Sociol Rev 3:672–682

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. Miller JR (2005) Biodiversity conservation and the extinction of experience. Trends Ecol Evol 20(8):430–434

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  46. Mills JH, Waite TH (2009) Economic prosperity, biodiversity conservation and the environmental Kuznets curve. Ecol Econ 68:2087–2095

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. Mueller MK (2014) The relationship between types of human–animal interaction and attitudes about animals: an exploratory study. Anthrozoös 27(2):295–308

    Article  Google Scholar 

  48. Neemo/LIFE Team (2016) LIFE: contributing to employment and economic growth. http://ec.europa.eu/environment/life/publications/lifepublications/generalpublications/documents/jobs_growth_study.pdf

  49. Nghiem LTP, Papworth SK, Lim FKS, Carrasco LR (2016) Analysis of the capacity of Google Trends to measure interest in conservation topics and the role of online news. PLoS ONE. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0152802

    PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  50. Nisbet MC, Myers T (2007) The polls—trends twenty years of public opinion about global warming. Public Opin Q 71:444–470

    Article  Google Scholar 

  51. Novacek MJ (2008) Engaging the public in biodiversity issues. PNAS 105(1):11571–11578

    CAS  Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  52. Papworth SK, Nghiem TPL, Chimalakonda D, Posa RMC, Wijedasa LS, Bickford D, Carrasco LR (2015) Quantifying the role of online news in linking conservation research to Facebook and Twitter. Conserv Biol 29(3):825–833

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  53. Parks S, Gowdy J (2013) What have economists learned about valuing nature? A review essay. Ecosyst Serv 3:e1–e10. doi:10.1016/j.ecoser.2012.12.002

    Article  Google Scholar 

  54. Perrings C, Naeem S, Ahrestani F, Bunker DE, Burkill P, Canziani G, Elmqvist T, Ferrati R, Fuhrman J, Jaksic F, Kawabata Z, Kinzig A, Mace GM, Milano F, Mooney H, Prieur-Richard A-H, Tschirhart J, Weisser W (2010) Ecosystem services for 2020. Science 330:323–324

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  55. Peterson G (2010) Growth of ecosystem services concept. http://rs.resalliance.org/2010/01/21/growth-of-ecosystem-services-concept/

  56. Pitelka LF (1994) Biodiversity and policy decisions. In: Schulze E-D, Mooney HA (eds) Biodiversity and ecosystem function, p 481–493

  57. Preis T, Moat HS, Stanley HE (2013) Quantifying trading behavior in financial markets using Google Trends. Sci Rep 3:1684–1689. doi:10.1038/srep01684

    CAS  Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  58. Proulx R, Massicotte P, Pepino M (2013) Googling trends in conservation biology. Conserv Biol 28(1):44–51

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  59. Richards DR (2013) The content of historical books as an indicator of past interest in environmental issues. Biodivers Conserv. doi:10.1007/s10531-013-0555-8

    Google Scholar 

  60. Saunders CD, Brook AT, Myers OE (2006) Using psychology to save biodiversity and human well-being. Conserv Biol 20:702–705

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  61. Schumpeter JA (1954) History of economic analysis. London, Allen & Unwin

  62. Shellenberger M, Nordhaus T (2007) Break through: from the death of environ-mentalism to the politics of possibility. Houghton Mifflin, New York

    Google Scholar 

  63. Silver N (2012) The signal and the noise. Penguin Books, Allen Lane

    Google Scholar 

  64. Special Eurobarometer (2015) Attitudes of Europeans towards biodiversity. Report 436. http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/special/pdf

  65. Standard Eurobarometer Series (2004–2015) Public opinion in the European Union, vols 62–84. European Commission, TNS opinion & social. http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/index_en.htm

  66. Takacs D (1996) The idea of biodiversity: philosophies of paradise. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore

    Google Scholar 

  67. Troumbis A (2017) Declining Google Trends of public interest in biodiversity: semantics, statistics or traceability of changing priorities? Biodivers Conserv. doi:10.1007/s10531-017-1294-z

    Google Scholar 

  68. Unesco (2009) Investing in cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue. World Report 2. www.unesco.org/en/word-reports/cultural-diversity

  69. Vermeulen S, Koziell I (2002) Integrating global and local values: a review of biodiversity assessment. International Institute for Environment and Development, London

    Google Scholar 

  70. Wilde GR, Pope KL (2013) Worldwide trends in fishing interest indicated by internet search volume. Fish Manage Ecol 20:211–222

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

In loving memory of Professor Leonidas Louloudis (1947–2014), a leader in agri-environmental policy and economics in Greece. The author expresses his thanks to anonymous reviewers whose comments helped improving the first version of this paper. T. Selidis provided additional support to AT for a series of papers on biodiversity conservation issues.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Andreas Y. Troumbis.

Additional information

This article belongs to the Topical Collection: Biodiversity appreciation and engagement.

Communicated by Dirk Sven Schmeller.

Electronic supplementary material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 86 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Troumbis, A.Y. Google Trends and cycles of public interest in biodiversity: the animal spirits effect. Biodivers Conserv 26, 3421–3443 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-017-1413-x

Download citation

Keywords

  • Google Trends
  • Biodiversity
  • Economy
  • Unemployment
  • Conservation
  • Europe