Decline of ‘biodiversity’ in conservation policy discourse in Australia

Date: 05, Sep, 2017
Author(s):   Kusmanoff, A.M., Fidler, F., Gordon, A., Bekessy, S.A.
Publisher: Environmental Science & Policy

Market-based instruments along with conceptualizing the environment as a collection of ‘ecosystem services’ has become increasingly common within environmental and conservation policy. This kind of thinking is also increasingly prominent in the public discourse surrounding environment and conservation policy, particularly in the context of communicating the importance of policy measures. Language used in public discourse can have a powerful influence on how people engage with policy issues, and changes within the biodiversity and conservation discourse may have consequences for public engagement in conservation. We explored how these factors are changing with time by documenting the use of the terms ‘bio’ and the prevalence of economic language in the text of 3553 media releases between 2003 and 2014 from the Australian Government environment portfolio, and 1064 media releases from the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF). Results show that in the last decade, the term ‘biodiversity’ has become less prevalent whilst economic language has increased in both Australian Government and ACF communication. A further content analysis in a subsample of 745 media releases explored the prevalence of ecosystem services framing, results indicating that it has become a mainstream concept. While this may reflect a strategic response by these agencies to better engage with both the general public and decision makers within what is an increasingly dominant neoliberal paradigm, we argue it may also have unintended (possibly adverse) impacts on how people think about and engage with biodiversity conservation.