“Biodiversity, knowledge, practices and commitments”


Christine RAIMONDProdig : Pôle de Recherche pour l’Organisation et la Diffusion de l’Information Géographique (UMR 8586)
Anne SOURDRILLADYSS : Laboratoire Dynamiques Sociales et Recomposition des Espaces (UMR 7533)


Developing an awareness of the problems entailed in conserving biodiversity is a major challenge for life scientists and international organisations alike (Myers et al, 2000; Toba, 2008). Biodiversity is defined as a general and unique concept that needs to be understood at different levels of living organisms (genes, species, habitats, ecosystems), for different social groups, at different geographical scales and in different periods. Today, injunctions to conserve biodiversity are underpinned by globally-held economic or ethical values (Armsworth et al, 2004, Boisvert, 2010, Larrère, 1997). They are seldom based on commitments and practices that are meaningful in a local context (Jarvis et al., 2007). It is only relatively recently that there has been any need to factor in the space, societies and area in order to grasp the underpinnings of the interactions between biodiversity and society (Couvet et al., 2008; Marty et al, 2005; Lewis et al, 2010; Simon, 2006), by comparison with the input from the life sciences (Barbault, 2008) and ethnoscience, with the gradual inclusion of local knowledge in the analysis of the relationships between society and biodiversity (Roué, 2006; Demeulenaere et al, 2010), or research into economics (payments for environmental services; Balmford et al, 2008). Our project is part of a topic that focuses on the social, spatial and territorial aspects as a framework for identifying biodiversity-related issues, but also as a forum for debate, projects and conflicts.

The members of the first Biodiversity Work-Package (WP) adopted multidisciplinary approaches based on shared data sets comparing widely differing situations in the North and the South. These approaches led us to take an interest, collectively, in (i) the perception of the environmental changes through ordinary biodiversity (several workshops and a publication in progress); (ii) the definition of native indicators for the changes and territories concerned, and (iii) community involvement in environmental issues (1 postdoc and 1 research engineer contract in progress). Two new initiatives are in progress: one on using sound as a change indicator (a research project on soundscapes is being set up) and the other on networks for exchanging household items to define agrobiodiversity territories in coordination with the ReSoDiv research group.

Following on from these projects on perceptions of biodiversity and as part of LabEx DynamiTe’s ongoing work, the WP members seek to broaden their research to include the question of biodiversity measurements (from amateur measurements to the expert or scientific indicators produced by public institutions and including the establishment of databases, in particular using Open Data). This question will be linked to the use of biodiversity measurements for policy-making purposes, and their effects on the ground (the process of increasing or decreasing the value of spaces, the “regional benchmarking” effects of biodiversity indicators, spotlighting or concealing factors responsible for endangering the living world, or conflicts concerning the living world).

The question of measurement is a cross-cutting theme with obvious local implications, and which can be linked to the question of community involvement (citizen science, citizen assessment and counter-assessment, “protester” mapping, Open Data militants, the many faces of volunteered geographical information, opposition to moves to reduce the immeasurable “Living World” to a set of figures, etc.). The WP will look at how this involvement plays out: who is tasked with and/or voluntarily involved in promoting biodiversity, combating its erosion, promoting its protection and restoration? How do farmers see these questions? The diversity of farmers’ responses to this issue may be linked to the diversity of their knowledge and experience of nature, which merits ongoing, in-depth investigation.


Biodiversity, local knowledge, scientific knowledge, expert knowledge, perceptions, environmental changes, natural resources, biodiversity measurements, commitment, involvement, participation, North-South comparison.