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How to argue for biodiversity conservation: 2 simple guides

Recommendations from the FP7-funded EU project BESAFE

Pensoft Publishers


IMAGE: This image shows the BESAFE logo. view more

Credit: BESAFE

Biodiversity decline is a fact, but how can society be convinced of the benefits of biodiversity for human well being and of the necessity of further protective action? The FP7 funded EU project Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services: Arguments for our Future Environment (BESAFE) addressed this challenge to produce guidance that can help improve the way we use arguments for conservation and convincingly demonstrate the value of biodiversity to decision-makers.

Two key outputs of the project are the final brochure "How to Argue for Biodiversity Conservation More Effectively: Recommendations from the BESAFE project", including key conclusions from project publications and case studies, and an interactive online tool, which can lead stakeholders to the relevant information in a few mouse clicks.

Key recommendations of BESAFE featured in these resources are:

  • The success of a more integrated approach depends on stakeholder engagement. 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) is needed.
  • 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.
  • 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.

These recommendations are illustrated in the final brochure and further developed in a collection of policy and technical briefs available through the interactive online tool.

"We aimed to provide the essence of 4 years worth of research in an easy to read and reuse form, to maximise the potential of using the right arguments for conservation at the right time in order to successfully demonstrate the value of biodiversity to decision-makers," comments Rob Bugter, co-ordinator of the BESAFE project.


Additional Information:

Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services: Arguments for our Future Environment (BESAFE) aims to improve our understanding of the alternative ways in which concepts for the 'value of biodiversity' can be used to improve biodiversity policy making and governance at local, national and European to global scales. BESAFE undertook a number of case studies covering all three major governance scales (global to European, national to regional, and local, as well as their interactions) and sample the ecological, societal and economic differences, as well as different ecosystems, different issues, as possible within time and resource constraints.

Original Source:

Bugter R., Smith A.C. and the BESAFE consortium. 2015. How to argue for biodiversity conservation more effectively. Recommendations from the BESAFE project. Pensoft Publishers, Sofia, 26 pp. Available at:

BESAFE web tool available at:

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