Both direct and vicarious experiences of nature affect children’s willingness to conserve biodiversity

Masashi Soga, Kevin J. Gaston, Yuichi Yamaura, Kiyo Kurisu, Keisuke Hanaki

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148 Citations (Scopus)


Children are becoming less likely to have direct contact with nature. This ongoing loss of human interactions with nature, the extinction of experience, is viewed as one of the most fundamental obstacles to addressing global environmental challenges. However, the consequences for biodiversity conservation have been examined very little. Here, we conducted a questionnaire survey of elementary schoolchildren and investigated effects of the frequency of direct (participating in nature-based activities) and vicarious experiences of nature (reading books or watching TV programs about nature and talking about nature with parents or friends) on their affective attitudes (individuals’ emotional feelings) toward and willingness to conserve biodiversity. A total of 397 children participated in the surveys in Tokyo. Children’s affective attitudes and willingness to conserve biodiversity were positively associated with the frequency of both direct and vicarious experiences of nature. Path analysis showed that effects of direct and vicarious experiences on children’s willingness to conserve biodiversity were mediated by their affective attitudes. This study demonstrates that children who frequently experience nature are likely to develop greater emotional affinity to and support for protecting biodiversity. We suggest that children should be encouraged to experience nature and be provided with various types of these experiences.

Original languageEnglish
Article number529
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Biodiversity conservation
  • Biophilia
  • Conservation psychology
  • Ecosystem services
  • Environmental education
  • Global change
  • Human-nature interactions
  • Pro-environmental behavior
  • Public health
  • Well-being

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