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The ambivalent nature of biodiversity: Scientists' perspectives on the Norwegian Nature Index

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The Norwegian Nature Index is intended to provide an overview of the state of biodiversity in Norway. From the perspective of the sociology of knowledge, the author explores how biologists make sense of biodiversity and how they identify scientific uncertainty in the context of the Nature Index. Anchoring and themata are employed as tools for analysis in the investigation of scientists' representation of the Nature Index and its subject matter, namely biodiversity. In-depth interviews indicated that most of the scientists perceived the results as intuitively sound, but they also revealed an outspoken ambivalence about compressing complex ecological relationships into standardized numbers. In covering both natural and cultural landscapes as habitats for biodiversity, there seems to be a symbolic mismatch between the operationalization of biodiversity in the index and the intuitive anchoring of biodiversity as ‘untouched’ nature. Hence, the thematizing of the divide between the untouched and what is human may be seen as a form of conceptual uncertainty underlying the Nature Index.
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Keywords: biodiversity; nature index; social representations; themata; uncertainty

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2012-12-01

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