Globalising Biodiversity: Scientific Practices of Scaling and Databasing
Since the Convention on Biological Diversity in 1992, biodiversity has become an important topic for scientific research. Much of this research focuses on measuring and mapping the current state of biodiversity in terms of which species are present where, and how abundantly, and making extrapolations and future projections—that is, determining the trends needed for forest and nature governance. Biodiversity databases are crucial components of these activities because they store information about biodiversity and make it digitally available. For biodiversity databases to be useful, the data they contain must be reliable, standardised, and fit for upscaling. This chapter uses material from the EBONE project (European Biodiversity Observation Network) to illustrate how biodiversity databases are constructed, how data are negotiated and scaled, and how biodiversity is globalised. The findings show there is continuous interplay between scientific ideals related to objectivity and pragmatic considerations related to feasibility and data availability. A crucial feature of the discussions was statistics. It also proved to be the main device in upscaling the data. The material presented shows that biodiversity is approached in an abstract, quantitative, and technical way by a group of scientists, mostly ecologists, in a highly contextual setting, disconnected from the species and habitats that make up biodiversity and the people involved in collecting the data. Globalising biodiversity involves decontextualisation and standardisation. This chapter argues that while this is important if the results of projects like EBONE are to be usable in different contexts, there is a risk involved, as these processes may lead to the alienation of the organisations and volunteers who collect the data upon which these projects rely. If these abstract representations of biodiversity become normalised, this may result in a detached understanding of biodiversity itself and our relationships with it.