The future of biodiversity

Entry type: Single project

Country/area: United States

Publishing organisation: Reuters

Organisation size: Big

Publication date: 2022-12-06

Language: English

Authors: Julia Janicki, Daisy Chung, Simon Scarr, Gloria Dickie, Katy Daigle, Jitesh Chowdhury, Sudev Kiyada, Catherine Tai, Anurag Rao


The Reuters graphics team publishes visual stories and data visualisations. The team typically cover all areas of the news, with content ranging from climate change to financial markets. Many of the pieces are conceptualised, researched, and produced by the graphics team.

Project description:

Everywhere we look, nature is in crisis. And more often than not, people are to blame. In taking over natural habitats, polluting pristine environments and fueling climate change, humans have unleashed what scientists consider a sixth mass extinction event – with some 1 million species on the brink. A U.N. conservation deal reached in December 2022 could start reversing the wilderness decline and help species to survive.

Prior to the U.N. biodiversity summit, Reuters used data, illustration and graphics to explain what was happening across some of the main biodiversity themes in a series of four visual stories.

Impact reached:

The projects were instantly picked up and praised by the scientific community as well as readers. The projects were the most compelling and in-depth look at the state of biodiversity during the COP15 summit.

Techniques/technologies used:

All four pieces used a mix of data, visual information, words and beautiful illustration to tell the story.

More than a hundred insects were illustrated and scaled to relative size to each other in order to connect with the reader and bring the important issue to life. Some were even animated using SVG and javascript. A careful balance of data visualisation, using D3 and Adobe’s creative suite, and text accompany the illustrations to explain the collapse of insect populations.

Beautiful illustration and visual storytelling are also at the heart of the plant stories as well as the extinction piece.

Context about the project:

Accurately illustrating extremely rare plants was definitely a challenge. Our illustrator visited the remote cliffs of Hawaii in order to get a closer look at the plants as well as the drone equipment used. The conservation data and plant counts that were used in the graphic came from working directly with the scientists on site.

The biggest challenge was making the stories come to life and engage readers while also providing enough accurate scientific context and data to explain the issues faced.

What can other journalists learn from this project?

The design and feel of each piece should reflect the tone and subject matter. The art direction and design of a data project can help to engage the reader. Making a connection to the insects, animals or plants, for example, can allow the reader to spend time digesting the information and visualisations.

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