Overcoming conceptual pitfalls in the nexus of food security and biodiversity conservation

By Joern Fischer

Yesterday, Muriel Tichit and I co-chaired a session at the conference i had been writing about. I think it was a fun session, and I just want to relate some of the “outcomes” here.

Our speakers identified the following important conceptual pitfalls:

1.Sustainability cannot be reduced to a problem of ecological effectiveness

2.Ecological economics is not just an accumulation of economic and ecological elements, but demands that we rethink underlying paradigms

3.Yield-biodiversity relationships are useful, but not enough

4.Conceptual models should  acknowledge the normative and contextual nature of the problem – goals should define models, not the other way around

5.Local landowners perceive not only ecosystem services but also disservices

6.Most species are rare and contribute little to either services or disservices

7.Crop genetic diversity is an asset for sustainable agroecosystems

8.Interdisciplinary, participatory approaches are needed to manage agrobiodiversity

9.To deliver food sovereignty, we need to think about scales of action, without isolating different but interrelated interests

10.The food-biodiversity nexus must be considered at every level, not just local or national

Based on this, we identified some clear themes in the search for conceptual pitfalls: paradigms, normative and contextual issues, inconvenient truths, and many actors and their various forms of involvement. This, in turn, raised the following cross-cutting questions for discussion, which I guess we should all ponder in our own work:

–How has the history of our discourses shaped what we work on, and how we work?

–How does thinking about temporal scale change our models and answers?

–What is the role of scientists in all this, given the uncomfortable, normative nature of these topics?

–How could we move from simple models to something more comprehensive – in a practical sense, as a research community?

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