The power of argument : Enhancing citizen’s valuation of and attitude towards agricultural biodiversity

Runhaar, Hens; Runhaar, Piety; Bouwmans, Machiel; Vink, Simon; Buijs, Arjen; Kleijn, David


Agrobiodiversity has been decreasing substantially in Europe. Social scientific research in this area has paid limited attention to how citizens value agrobiodiversity and its decline, and how these valuations can be influenced. We explore the influence of different arguments for enhancing agro-biodiversity, delivered via short movies, on attitudes and behaviour of students, environmental professionals and people interested in nature conservation in the Netherlands. We conclude that information provision does not influence attitudes. However, it does influence values assigned to agrobiodiversity, but not always in the ways we hypothesized. Information about the intrinsic value of agrobiodiversity has the most effects on values assigned to agrobiodiversity. Among students, women and people with a low emotional attachment with agricultural landscapes (‘place identity’ and ‘place dependence’), emphasizing the instrumental value of agrobiodiversity has a counter-intuitive effect. It does not influence the importance of this value but instead reinforces the intrinsic value they assign to agrobiodiversity. The latter finding is at odds with the instrumental biodiversity discourse in science and policy, which, under headings such as ecosystem services and natural capital, aims to mobilize support for nature conservation by emphasizing its instrumental, functional and economic values. Emphasizing the intrinsic value of agrobiodiversity seems more effective.