Biology

A season for all things: Phenological imprints in Wikipedia usage and their relevance to conservation

by John C. Mittermeier, Uri Roll, Thomas J. Matthews, Richard Grenyer

Phenology plays an important role in many human–nature interactions, but these seasonal patterns are often overlooked in conservation. Here, we provide the first broad exploration of seasonal patterns of interest in nature across many species and cultures. Using data from Wikipedia, a large online encyclopedia, we analyzed 2.33 billion pageviews to articles for 31,751 species across 245 languages. We show that seasonality plays an important role in how and when people interact with plants and animals online. In total, over 25% of species in our data set exhibited a seasonal pattern in at least one of their language-edition pages, and seasonality is significantly more prevalent in pages for plants and animals than it is in a random selection of Wikipedia articles. Pageview seasonality varies across taxonomic clades in ways that reflect observable patterns in phenology, with groups such as insects and flowering plants having higher seasonality than mammals. Differences between Wikipedia language editions are significant; pages in languages spoken at higher latitudes exhibit greater seasonality overall, and species seldom show the same pattern across multiple language editions. These results have relevance to conservation policy formulation and to improving our understanding of what drives human interest in biodiversity.

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