Accepted paper:

The impact of biodiversity discourse on the environmental conflicts - Evidence from Central and Eastern Europe


Krzysztof Niedziałkowski (Polish Academy of Sciences)
Jouni Paavola (University of Leeds)

Paper short abstract:

Paper long abstract:

Biodiversity conservation has become an important area of the European Union policymaking with its own legal and organisational framework based on Birds and Habitats Directives. The accession of the Central and Eastern European countries to the EU in mid-2000s involved adopting the EU rules in that respect and underlying discourses. This paper looks at the consequences of this process for nature conservation governance in the biggest of the new EU countries - Poland. Tracing developments in three long-term conflicts related to natural areas it is argued that biodiversity discourse and institutions considerably affected the way conflicts over nature are understood, played by actors involved, and, finally, resolved. The paper suggests that biodiversity conservation redefined what is naturally valuable and become much more space hungry increasing conflicts with infrastructure development. The former passive nature conservation, focused on remnants of undisturbed habitats, became more offensive to include patches to be re-naturalized and ecological corridors between core zones. In addition, the new discourse and EU rules that followed, rescaled the governance of biodiversity, shifting power to the EU and non-state actors who became directly involved in decision-making. While in conflicts between conservation and development, biodiversity discourse strengthened conservation interests, in a conflict, in which opposing groups advocated different concepts of biodiversity conservation, the impact of the new discourse was less pronounced. The paper also investigates the role of scientists in translating the dominant nature conservation paradigms into concrete policy goals.

panel L3
Scientific and imagined narratives on biodiversity: Impossible solidarities?