Content analysis of nature documentaries in China: challenges and opportunities to raise public conservation awareness

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Haonan Wei, Violeta Berdejo-Espinola, Tatsuya Amano, Yunjie Ma


1.     In the Anthropocene, the general public is a key part of biodiversity conservation since several aspects of their daily life are inevitably linked to major threats to biodiversity. It is thus important to improve their conservation awareness. While a growing body of research has demonstrated the potential of English-language nature documentaries to raise public conservation awareness, little attention has been paid to the potential of non-English-language nature documentaries.

2.     Here, we assessed the challenges and opportunities for nature documentaries broadcasted in China in 2021 to raise public conservation awareness by investigating their thematic, geographical, and taxonomic coverages using a content analysis approach.

3.     We found that terrestrial biomes, mammals, and birds were overrepresented in nature documentaries in China, while only a quarter of documentaries explicitly covered human destructive impacts on nature. To further promote public conservation awareness, there is an urgent need to cover under-represented realms/biomes (e.g., freshwater realm and deep-marine biome), taxa (e.g., invertebrates, plants, and fungi), and anthropogenic threats in future documentaries. Nevertheless, nature documentaries in China also showed a relatively good coverage of threatened species and biomes under human influence (e.g., cities and farmlands), which have increasingly been shown to be important for conservation.

4.     We also found that domestically-produced, Chinese-language nature documentaries provided unique information on biodiversity and ecosystems in China, such as local biomes and endemic species, highlighting their role in raising conservation awareness in China and worldwide. However, only 9% of them provided English subtitles/versions. Making Chinese-language nature documentaries accessible to the global community by translating them into other languages would help us increase international awareness of biodiversity in China.

5.     The methodological approach of this study is easily applicable to nature documentaries produced in other parts of the world. By better understanding the content coverage of nature documentaries globally, we can address knowledge gaps in their thematic, geographical, and taxonomic coverages and maximise their contribution to raising conservation awareness.



Life Sciences


biodiversity conservation, China, content analysis, general public, nature documentaries


Published: 2023-05-25 14:19

Last Updated: 2023-05-25 18:19


CC-BY Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International

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Conflict of interest statement:

Data and Code Availability Statement:
All data are available as Supplementary Data S1

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