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The vagueness of “biodiversity” and its implications in conservation practice


Meinard, Yves; Coq, Sylvain; Schmid, Bernhard (2019). The vagueness of “biodiversity” and its implications in conservation practice. In: Casetta, Elena; Marques da Silva, Jorge; Vecchi, Davide. From assessing to conserving biodiversity. Cham: Springer, 353-374.

Abstract

The vagueness of the notion of biodiversity is discussed in the philosophical literature but most ecologists admit that it is unproblematic in practice. We analyze a series of case studies to argue that this denial of the importance of clarifying the definition of biodiversity has worrying implications in practice, at three levels: it can impair the coordination of conservation actions, hide the need to improve management knowledge and cover up incompatibilities between disciplinary assumptions. This is because the formal agreement on the term “biodiversity” can hide profound disagreements on the nature of conservation issues. We then explore avenues to unlock this situation, using the literature in decision analysis. Decision analysts claim that decision-makers requesting decision-support often do not precisely know for what problem they request support. Clarifying a better formulation, eliminating vagueness, is therefore a critical step for decision analysis. We explain how this logic can be implemented in our case studies and similar situations, where various interacting actors face complex, multifaceted problems that they have to solve collectively. To sum up, although “biodiversity” has long been considered a flagship to galvanize conservation action, the vagueness of the term actually complicates this perennial task of conservation practitioners. As conservation scientists, we have a duty to stop promoting a term whose vagueness impairs conservation practice. This approach allows introducing a dynamic definition of “biodiversity practices”, designed to play the integrating role that the term “biodiversity” cannot achieve, due to the ambiguity of its general definition.

Abstract

The vagueness of the notion of biodiversity is discussed in the philosophical literature but most ecologists admit that it is unproblematic in practice. We analyze a series of case studies to argue that this denial of the importance of clarifying the definition of biodiversity has worrying implications in practice, at three levels: it can impair the coordination of conservation actions, hide the need to improve management knowledge and cover up incompatibilities between disciplinary assumptions. This is because the formal agreement on the term “biodiversity” can hide profound disagreements on the nature of conservation issues. We then explore avenues to unlock this situation, using the literature in decision analysis. Decision analysts claim that decision-makers requesting decision-support often do not precisely know for what problem they request support. Clarifying a better formulation, eliminating vagueness, is therefore a critical step for decision analysis. We explain how this logic can be implemented in our case studies and similar situations, where various interacting actors face complex, multifaceted problems that they have to solve collectively. To sum up, although “biodiversity” has long been considered a flagship to galvanize conservation action, the vagueness of the term actually complicates this perennial task of conservation practitioners. As conservation scientists, we have a duty to stop promoting a term whose vagueness impairs conservation practice. This approach allows introducing a dynamic definition of “biodiversity practices”, designed to play the integrating role that the term “biodiversity” cannot achieve, due to the ambiguity of its general definition.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Book Section, not_refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
Dewey Decimal Classification:910 Geography & travel
Language:English
Date:1 January 2019
Deposited On:10 Jan 2020 15:22
Last Modified:10 Jan 2020 15:22
Publisher:Springer
Series Name:History, Philosophy and Theory of the Life Sciences
Number:24
ISSN:2211-1956
ISBN:978-3-030-10990-5
OA Status:Hybrid
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-10991-2_17

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