Decision makers, the people who take the actual final decisions at the end of a decision making process, usually will consider factors like real or perceived obligations and what they think is in the best interests of the people and parties involved and/or society as a whole. The decision they take will normally reflect what they think is the right thing to do in the given situation. And it may reflect what they think others will value as much, or more, as what they value themselves.

People arguing in a process will usually only bring in the arguments they think will be most effective in getting them the result they want. They therefore may only use the arguments they think other parties, and in particular the decision makers, will be sensitive to.

In one of our studies we investigated the attitudes of expert stakeholders: researchers, decision-makers and NGOs. We found that many stakeholders from all walks of life attach considerable important to the intrinsic value of nature, and place a high value on cultural and aesthetic ecosystem services. For example, all stakeholders agreed with the statement that biodiversity conservation is a moral issue. On the other hand, our stakeholders also rejected the concern that valuation of ecosystems is likely to provide a justification for their destruction.

This diversity of views might prompt us to consider whether we should adopt a wider range of arguments for the conservation of nature. In particular, our results could be used to justify a stronger emphasis on ethical and moral arguments for biodiversity conservation, as it seems that many decision-makers and other stakeholders respond to those arguments.

Perhaps the key to improving biodiversity protection is to ensure a better balance between these arguments, and wider dissemination of these arguments to all stakeholder groups, rather than assuming that, for example, decision-makers will only respond to financial arguments.

In several of our case studies, arguments originally used by one party were taken up by other parties. An example are the local livelihood arguments used at first only at the local scale in the Danube delta case study, but were taken up at higher scales later in the process. This shows that new arguments can resonate with other people than the original users and thus become effective, and therefore that tailoring of arguments to audience should take place rather by natural, in-process selection rather than by an up-front based on assumptions.