Categories for conservation: debating nature at the science-policy interface

Over the last 20-30 years, nature conservation has been geared towards promoting life, i.e. biodiversity, and in consequence to “halt or slow extinction, and ensure that particular species continue to live and evolve” (Biermann & Mansfield 2014, in press). The tension between ‘wild’ and ‘cultural’ nature is hence at the heart of the dynamics of current and future nature conservation, not least because ‘the wild’ tends to be seen as more worthy of protection than nature that is culturally produced. Categories such as ‘wild’ or ‘cultivated’ are undeniably human constructs, projected on to a physical reality. Categories, then, are not innocent or neutral constructs, they are contested tools within nature conservation and management, policy and research. Hence, nature conservation and its accompanying tools represent a contested enterprise which needs to undergo continuous critical reflection. In this session we want to critically debate how and why nature is categorized, indexed and folded into hierarchies in order to serve scientific, managerial and political ends. We welcome contributions that critically address key nature conservation categories, e.g. ‘wilderness’, ‘alien species’ and ‘red listed species’, and various nature indexes, such as the Norwegian Ecosystem Index in order to explore which consequences for science, management and policy, such categories and hierarchies produce.


Gunhild Setten, Department of Geography, NTNU

Dagmar Hagen, Norwegian Institute for Nature Research


List of participants