Wyckhuys, K.A.G., Pozsgai, G., Lovei, G.L., Vasseur, L., Wratten, S.D., Gurr, G.M., Reynolds, O.L. & Goettel, M. (2019) Global disparity in public awareness of the biological control potential of invertebrates.Science of the Total Environment, 660, 799-806. DOI:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.01.077 (IF2019 6,551; Q1 Environmental Sciences)
Invertebrates make up over 95% of animal biodiversity on Earth and contribute to multiple ecosystem services (ES) in natural and human-dominated systems. One such service, biological control (BC) of herbivorous pests, is a core component of sustainable intensification of agriculture, yet its importance is routinely overlooked. Here we report a macro-scale, cross-cultural assessment of the public visibility (or ‘salience’) of BC invertebrates, using high-throughput analysis of large bodies of digitized text (i.e., ‘culturomics’). Using binomial scientific name frequency as proxy for visibility, we compared the extent to which a given species featured in webpages within either scientific media or the entire worldwide web, and in total search volume at varying spatial scale. For a set of 339 BC invertebrate species, scientific and internet coverage averaged 1020 and 1735 webpages, respectively. Substantial variability was recorded among BC taxa with Coleoptera, Hemiptera and Nematoda having comparatively high visibility. Online visibility exhibited large geographical variability ranging from France covering BC invertebrates on average in 1050 webpages versus Thailand or Indonesia on just 31–38. This work represents the first extensive use of culturomics to assess public visibility of insect-mediated ES. As BC uptake is dictated by stakeholders' access to (agro-ecological) information, our work identifies geographically-delineated areas that are differentially attuned to the concept of invertebrate BC, pinpoints opportunities for focusing education campaigns and awareness-raising, enables real-time tracking of BC public appeal, and informs public policy.