Many more or less similar classifications of values of biodiversity exist, but none of them take a sufficiently wide perspective to address some of the common misconceptions that may lead to conflict and confusion between stakeholders with different professional backgrounds. Therefore a new classification approach aiming to provide the reader with a systematic and easy-to-read overview of a complicated issue was devised.

To find out how values were expressed in actual arguments, we conducted a review covering ‘gray’ sources like press releases/statements, web texts, policy documents, reports as well as peer reviewed literature. This resulted in an initial listing of 31 typical “premise statements” representing the spectrum of arguments for biodiversity as expressed by authors.

Following the observation that these arguments were in some cases vague and incomplete, we revised them into a framework aimed to clarify the distinction between core components. In particular, 17 separate benefits of biodiversity were identified, covering the full range of intrinsic, moral, ecosystem service and other ‘values’ identified with conservation.

This classification system was used for the identification of biodiversity units, benefits and beneficiaries in our case studies.