• Open Access

Rethinking biodiversity: from goods and services to “living with”


  • Editor Prof. Ashwini Chhatre

Correspondence Esther Turnhout, Forest and Nature Conservation Policy Group, Wageningen University, PO Box 47, 6700 AA Wageningen, The Netherlands. Tel: +31-(0)317-486205; fax: +31-(0)317-419000. E-mail: Esther.turnhout@wur.nl


Since the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity, counting and mapping have come to dominate international debates around biodiversity protection. With the emergence of the Ecosystem Services concept, these counting and mapping efforts are increasingly imbued with an economic logic that argues that to save biodiversity, its goods and services must be given monetary value. This article offers a critical engagement with the Ecosystem Services discourse and the way it translates the diversity of nature into a single measure—a “currency”—to be included in systems of exchange. We argue that this conception of biodiversity is too narrow and potentially detrimental because it reduces biodiversity to a series of quantifiable fragmented parts that become liable to counting, mapping, and utilitarian use, and because it reduces social–natural relations to market transactions. Subsequently, we outline possibilities for conceiving and living with biodiversity that go beyond relations of counting, mapping, and commodification. It is important that biodiversity knowledge organizations, such as the recently sanctioned Intergovernmental science-policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), take these into account. Conserving a diversity of life requires acknowledging a diversity of values, knowledge and framings of biodiversity, and fostering a diversity of social–natural relations.