The geography of conservation ecology research in Southseast Asia:Current biases and future opportunities

Xingli Giam, David S. Wilcove

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Conservation ecology research in Southeast Asia is relatively depauperate compared to temperate countries and other tropical regions despite this region's rich and highly threatened biota. By reviewing 20 years of papers published in four major conservation-science journals and three ecology journals with conservation interests, we assessed the geographical bias in total research activity and incountry research activity within Southeast Asia, and we elucidated the scale of international collaborations. We found research activity to be biased toward the Sundaland region, particularly Borneo and Sumatra. The majority of studies were led by researchers based outside of Southeast Asia (67.4%) and outside of the country of research (72.4%). Singapore had the highest proportion of its studies led by scientists based in the country of research (80.8%), while Myanmar (0%) and Cambodia (9.1%) had the lowest. Of the studies led by foreign scientists, only 36.2% involved collaborators within the focal country of research. The total number of studies was moderately positively correlated with country area and the total number of threatened amphibians, birds, and mammals across countries. The proportion of papers led by local scientists was strongly positively correlated with human development index (HDI) but not population size. The alignment of research with need (as expressed by numbers of endangered species) could be seen as a positive result, but it also means that research is lagging in the emerging hotspots of deforestation, e.g., Laos, Cambodia, and Indonesian Papua. To improve conservation science in Southeast Asia, the scientifi c community must increase research in the region's understudied countries as well as increase the number of Southeast Asians engaged in conservation research. We encourage major funding institutions to target additional funds for work in understudied countries and regions and to give special consideration to research that involves local counterparts. Researchers from universities in wealthier countries can also help less wealthy Southeast Asian countries to build research capacity by participating in the training of young Southeast Asian scientists.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)29-36
Number of pages8
JournalRaffles Bulletin of Zoology
Issue numberSUPPL.25
StatePublished - 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


  • Capacity building
  • Collaboration
  • Human development index
  • Human population
  • Research priorities


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