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The Behavioral Economics of Biodiversity Conservation Scientists

Vellend, Mark (2019) The Behavioral Economics of Biodiversity Conservation Scientists. Philosophical Topics, 47 (1). pp. 219-237. ISSN 2154-154X

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Values have a profound influence on the behaviour of all people, scientists included. Biodiversity is studied by ecologists, like myself, most of whom align with the “mission-driven” field of conservation biology. The mission involves the protection of biodiversity, and a set of contextual values including the beliefs that biological diversity and ecological complexity are good and have intrinsic value. This raises concerns that the scientific process might be influenced by biases toward outcomes that are aligned with these values. Retrospectively, I have identified such biases in my own work, resulting from an implicit assumption that organisms that are not dependent on natural habitats (e.g., forests) effectively do not count in biodiversity surveys. Finding that anthropogenic forest disturbance reduces the diversity of plant species dependent on shady forests can thus be falsely equated with more general biodiversity loss. Disturbance might actually increase overall plant diversity (i.e., including all of the species found growing in a particular place). In this paper I ask whether ecologists share values that are unrepresentative of broader society, I discuss examples of potential value-driven biases in biodiversity science, and I present some hypotheses from behavioral economics on possible psychological underpinnings of shared values and preferences among ecologists.

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Item Type: Published Article or Volume
Vellend, Markmark.vellend@usherbrooke.ca0000-0002-2491-956X
Keywords: biodiversity, values, conservation, ecology, bias
Depositing User: Dr. Mark Vellend
Date Deposited: 01 Dec 2020 06:07
Last Modified: 01 Dec 2020 06:07
Item ID: 18469
Journal or Publication Title: Philosophical Topics
Publisher: University of Arkansas Press
Official URL:
DOI or Unique Handle:
Date: 30 April 2019
Page Range: pp. 219-237
Volume: 47
Number: 1
ISSN: 2154-154X

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