In many parts of the world, the success of biodiversity conservation strongly depends on the decisions of private landowners. These decisions are guided by the shared perceptions of the biodiversity problem. In this study, we applied a mixed method critical discourse analysis and examined how alternative discourses of biodiversity guide Finnish forest owners to maintain, or not maintain, biodiversity on their lands. Data collection combined a preliminary interview (n = 24) with a forest owner survey (n = 452).
We identified four discourses of biodiversity. The concerned discourse acknowledges the biodiversity problems in forests caused by current forestry. The sceptical discourse denies the existence of all biodiversity problems and defends contemporary forestry against the accusations of environmentalists. The harmonising discourse emphasises the harmony of all forest uses in the spirit of multi-objective forestry. The uninvolved discourse distances itself from the biodiversity issue. Overall, only 21% of the survey respondents worried about biodiversity loss in Finnish forests.
The discourses illustrate three different ways in which Finnish forest owners moderate the cognitive dissonance caused by ‘unpleasant’ information on biodiversity loss by either excluding or rejecting it, or assimilating it into multi-objective harmony. Overcoming these kinds of discursive barriers – the mechanisms that help decision-makers ignore alarming realities – is a major challenge for all those who aim to halt biodiversity loss.