A mathematical framework for dissecting the normative foundations of conservation decisions

Guillaume Latombe, Bernd Lenzner, Anna Schertler, Stefan Dullinger, Michael Glaser, Ivan Jarić, Anibal Pauchard, John R. U. Wilson, Franz Essl

Research output: Working paper


Perspectives in conservation are based on a variety of value systems and normative postulates. Such differences in how people value nature and its components lead to different evaluations of the morality of conservation goals and approaches, and often underlie disagreements in the formulation and implementation of environmental management policies. Specifically, whether a specific conservation decision (e.g. killing feral cats to save birds threatened with extinction) is viewed as appropriate or not can vary among people with different value systems. Here, we present a conceptual, mathematical framework that is intended to serve as a heuristic tool to clarify normative postulates in conservation approaches based on the expected consequences of management. Although it is not intended to replace more complex philosophical discursive approaches and moral reasoning, its purpose is to highlight how fundamental differences between value systems can lead to different prioritizations of available management options and offer a common ground for discussion. We compare how management decisions would likely be viewed under three different idealised value systems (ecocentric conservation, new conservation, and sentientist conservation). We illustrate the utility of the framework by applying it to case studies involving invasive alien species, rewilding, and trophy hunting. By making value systems and their consequences in practice explicit, the framework facilitates debates on contested conservation issues. Finally, we believe dissecting the normative postulates on which conservation decisions are based will facilitate understanding and addressing conservation5conflicts.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherbioRxiv, at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
Number of pages42
Publication statusPublished - 14 Apr 2021


Dive into the research topics of 'A mathematical framework for dissecting the normative foundations of conservation decisions'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this