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From science to society to practice? Public reactions to the insect crisis in Germany

Felgentreff, Esther Sophie; Buchholz, Sascha; Straka, Tanja Maria

1. The insect crisis, as conservation topic, has historically received little attention among the general public. Yet, the publication “More than 75% decline over 27 years in total flying insect biomass in protected areas” by Hallmann et al. gained vast media coverage in Germany in October 2017. Given the media's known influence on public perception, we investigated (i) whether coverage of this publication increased awareness among the German public for insect die‐off, and (ii) whether it contributed to people's intentions to undertake insect protecting actions. 2. We used Google Trends to examine people's internet activity in Germany in relation to keywords relevant to our research question. 3. A high peak in Google searches for insect die‐off (“Insektensterben”) was indeed visible immediately after the study publication, and search volume remained significantly higher for the following 6 months, confirming that the topic gained attention. 4. Further, searches for the three keywords insect hotel, bee‐friendly and bee meadow (“Insektenhotel”, “bienenfreundlich”, “Bienenweide”) increased significantly over the summers of the years 2017 to 2019. It appears that increased media attention around insect die‐off spurned by the publication of Hallmann et al not only addressed the crisis but also encouraged implementation of simple insect protection measures by the public. 5. These findings suggest that cooperation between the media, conservation organizations and scientists to disseminate evidence‐based information alongside practical conservation measures may have lasting benefits.
Published in: People and Nature, 10.1002/pan3.10434, Wiley