Exploring shared public perspectives on biodiversity attributes.
Researchers, practitioners and policymakers have widely documented the multifarious ways that nature influences human well-being. However, we still have only a limited understanding of how the public interact with, respond to and talk about attributes of biodiversity. We used image-based Q methodology to explore the shared and contrasting perspectives people hold for biodiversity. This approach is a powerful way of allowing people to articulate what is, or is not, important to them, free from constraints associated with statement-based stimuli. We used British woodlands as a study system, as they are accessible and well-visited by the public. The elements of biodiversity incorporated in the Q methodology represented vertebrates, invertebrates, trees and understorey plants and fungi. The shared public perspectives varied, and the reasons underpinning those perspectives were rich and diverse. People articulated reasons related to an array of biodiversity attributes (e.g. functions, behaviours, colours, smells, shapes). Many of the perspectives transcended specific species or taxonomic groups. Although woodlands were used as a study system, people referenced perceptions and experiences external to this habitat (e.g. within their gardens) and associated with their everyday lives. Cultural influences and memories linked to particular people and places were also prominent. Few of the shared perspectives map onto the objective measures and dimensions that researchers use to describe and categorise biodiversity (e.g. rarity, ecosystem service provision).