Unconventional approaches for conservation in the Anthropocene: Exploring expert views and the basis of preference
Ideas about conservation are in flux. Rewilding. Novel ecosystems. Assisted migration. De-extinction. These are just some of the emerging and contentious approaches at the fore of conservation in the Anthropocene. Insights from ecology have been instrumental in deepening understanding of how species and ecosystems may respond to the impacts of global environmental change and for developing novel management approaches. Much less is known about the relative acceptability of different approaches, and how factors including perceived ecological riskiness, environmental values and affective heuristics influence preferences. With scientists and other experts playing an increasingly prominent role as policy advisors in conservation, it is relevant to ask the following: What are the views and preferences of experts regarding emerging unconventional approaches for conservation, and what is the basis of these preferences?
Data collected from in-depth interviews, participant observation and a web-based survey reveal increasing and widespread agreement across conservation scientists with a set of previously contentious approaches and actions, including the need for frameworks for prioritization and decision-making that take expected losses and emerging novel ecosystems into consideration. Simultaneously, these same findings indicate enduring and deeply held preferences for conventional actions (specifically protected areas) as the most important policy action, and negative affective responses toward more interventionist proposals (like assisted migration). These results underscore the often-unrecognized role of value-based and affective heuristics in shaping evaluations of policy alternatives amongst biodiversity scientists. Policy implications of this work include the possibility that unconventional approaches may be subject to rejection for unintended (value-based) reasons. This analysis will be presented in the broader temporal context of changing (and durable) ideas and norms for conservation. Suggestions for a collaborative, interdisciplinary and place-based research agenda will be discussed.