Five main points of advice for improving biodiversity argumentation

Situations in which biodiversity argumentation is used are so different and specific that the effectiveness of different arguments isn’t simply predicted by policy stage and governance scale. Effectiveness much more depends on tailoring argumentation to the decision making process and the parties in it.  But there is general advice to be given at that level.

  • Engage stakeholders in a more integrated approach.
    A top-down policy framework that sets goals for the protection of particular sites and species is important, but it is not enough to prevent biodiversity loss. An integrated approach, seeking to ‘mainstream’ biodiversity concerns across all policy sectors (e.g. agriculture, forestry, water, energy, transport and urban planning) and including the biodiversity outside protected areas is needed. Consequently, success depends on the cooperation and active engagement of all the stakeholders needed to successfully implement protective measures.
  • Promote bottom-up initiatives at the local level.
    All stakeholders need to be actively involved in the decision-making process, which should facilitate building trust and working towards generally agreed and accepted solutions. This is particularly important in situations of conflict between biodiversity conservation and the use of natural resources. Authorities should invest in adapting their role to initiate, facilitate, monitor, guide and encourage these bottom-up collaborative decision-making processes and actively support an adaptive management approach wherever possible.
  • Tailor arguments to the audience.
    Arguments need to be framed to fit the values and goals of the audience, embracing the plurality of values attached to nature, and using appropriate language. For example, over-emphasising economic arguments could alienate people who are motivated mainly by ethical and moral concerns.
  • Use positive arguments.
    Positive framing of arguments to emphasise benefits is often more powerful than negative framing that focuses on threats and losses. The concept of ecosystem services is useful for emphasising positive benefits, provided that it is properly explained to stakeholders.
  • Use a wider range of arguments.
    Arguments based on the economic value of nature for humans dominate European and national policy-making, and are often seen as central to gaining high-level policy-maker support, but our results show that many decision-makers and other stakeholders also use and respond positively to ethical and moral arguments. Therefore, a wider range of arguments may be needed to engage all stakeholders, including those at the local and regional level. It can be highly effective to bundle together packages of positive arguments, including those on the value of nature to humans, as well as those based on the rights of species to exist and on an “insurance policy” approach stressing adaptation and resilience. These arguments should be seen as complementary, not as alternatives: the key recommendation is to ensure a better balance between the different types of arguments, and wider dissemination of these arguments to all stakeholder groups.

BESAFE’s final brochure offers a more extensive overview of our main conclusions in a glossy format.

BESAFE’s Final Publishable Summary adds last results and an overview of our products, dissemination efforts and their impacts (wil be added soon).