Biodiversity: ideas need time to mature

University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK.

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Disagreements over the values of biodiversity are not a problem caused by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) — nor are they a threat to its success (see Nature 560, 409; 2018). Such debates are grist to the mill of innovation for environmental governance.

People value the natural world in different ways. This is reflected in the ‘ecosystem services’ concept developed through the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and in the ‘nature’s contributions to people’ approach developed through IPBES. Although both global bodies have sought ways to represent diversity in their assessments, resolving or reducing diverse values has never been a stated role.

The IPBES leadership should therefore not be too hasty in seeking consensus on a single approach to representing values. The IPBES process is still aiming to improve its engagement with the humanities and social sciences (A. Larigauderie et al. Nature 532, 313; 2016), and its methodological assessment of biodiversity values started only this year. Both initiatives will catalyse new thinking. Influential ideas take time to mature.

IPBES has committed to move away from focusing solely on scientific assessment. This could achieve something more powerful than scientific consensus for biodiversity, namely a greater understanding of the terms through which humans and nature relate to one another at and across different scales.

Nature 561, 309 (2018)

doi: 10.1038/d41586-018-06737-y

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