Towards a holistic view of biodiversity

Many of the biodiversity conservation programs focus on the protection of species and the creation of protected areas. However, the current scientific concept of biodiversity provides a fragile or incomplete basis for action to protect nature, since it ignores the many ways in which people know, value, depend on and care for it.

The article led by Unai Pascual and published in Nature Sustainability argues that the current vision of biodiversity is limiting and contributes to the lack of progress in the fight against its loss. In fact, the imbalance in the way the conservation movement conceives and values ​​nature and the way society as a whole, including marginalized communities, does it is a constant source of conflict. For this reason, the article "Biodiversity and the challenge of pluralism" offers a series of recommendations for the science, policy and practice of biodiversity conservation.

The article has been written by an interdisciplinary team of scientists from economics, political and social sciences, geography and ecology and emphasizes the need to expand the idea of ​​biodiversity beyond the currently limiting perspectives they dominate science, the conservation movement and politics at the local, national and international levels. He argues that a concept of biodiversity that encompasses different perspectives and human values ​​can be more effective in dealing with the multiple factors that originate the current crisis of nature at a global level.

In this sense, the authors emphasize the need to recognize the importance of the different ways in which people relate to nature. This "pluralist" perspective can transform the acceptability or not of policies and actions aimed at biodiversity conservation and their success.

The article also argues that a new approach to conservation science is necessary, one that is capable of capturing the multiple values ​​of biodiversity. Such a pluralistic approach could build bridges with a broader set of citizens concerned about nature, and thus challenge the idea that there is an inevitable clash between nature and human well-being. Likewise, the authors defend that a pluralistic perspective that recognizes the needs and forms of knowledge of the actors who have an interest in conservation and are affected by it could face the long history of social conflicts in the name of conservation of the biodiversity. What is needed is an approach to conservation that respects the rights of marginalized communities, especially indigenous peoples, whose traditional ecological knowledge and sustainable practices remain vital in many countries for the protection of nature.

The growing social inequality at the global level accompanies the trends of decline in biodiversity. The authors affirm that it is urgent to understand well what are the underlying causes of the global socio-ecological crisis. For this, they defend that it is necessary to take into account the power relations in society and the strong vested interests, as well as the differentiated responsibilities in the loss of biodiversity. This is necessary to determine who benefits from the destruction of nature and how it can be stopped.

This new article in Nature Sustainability is designed to contribute to the scientific-political debate that will take place at the next Summit on Biodiversity organized by the Convention on Biological Diversity, to be held in October 2021 in Kunming (China). The authors of the article hope that their calls for pluralism will help inform the establishment of new biodiversity goals, targets and indicators for the coming decades.

In the words of Unai Pascual, Ikerbasque researcher at the Basque Center for Climate Change, lead author of the article and current co-chair of the Values ​​Assessment of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biological Diversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), "to address the causes and the possible solutions to the dangerous decline of nature worldwide, biodiversity scientists, the conservation movement and policy makers must take into account the multiple perspectives and values ​​that people have towards nature, although these do not always coincide. Life on Earth is based on biodiversity and society perceives nature and thinks about its values ​​in a very different way, which makes the relationship between human beings and nature incredibly complex. It is time to take into account the many different ways in which we attach importance to nature and this must urgently be reflected in the cience, politics and actions that try to conserve biodiversity".

One of the article's co-authors, Georgina Mace, passed away before the article was published. Georgina Mace, winner of the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge award in the Ecology and Conservation Biology category in 2018, was a fervent defender of inclusive and interdisciplinary approaches to biodiversity science, and this article aims to be a tribute to Georgina Mace and her tireless work in the field of biodiversity science.

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