Diversity of perspectives in biodiversity conservation: A case study of port land use in Antwerp and Rotterdam

Ashlynn Broussard*, Farid Dahdouh-Guebas, Jean Hugé

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Conflicts of interest often undermine conservation initiatives against biodiversity decline. Effective decision-making requires a deeper understanding of the positions, criteria, concerns, and perspectives of stakeholders. However, managing so many perspectives can be difficult, and if not done well, conflicts arise which make it difficult to achieve conservation goals. The purpose of this study is to demonstrate that identifying areas of consensus is a good starting point to generate more effective debates and address complex issues. To do this, we investigate the diversity of perspectives regarding biodiversity conservation schemes among stakeholders in the studied ports of Antwerp and Rotterdam. Using Q-methodology, a semi-quantitative technique that enables us to systematically study the subjective views of stakeholders involved in a topic, we identified and organized a range of shared perspectives into three groups, known as factors. A total of 20 participants sorted 45 statements according to their perceptions and objectives, from −4 ‘most disagreeable’ to 4 ‘most agreeable’. Then, respondents explained their rankings in a post-sorting interview. Next, the data was analyzed quantitatively and qualitatively. The quantitative analysis was conducted in two parts: (i) Dividing respondents into groups based on similar perspectives and (ii) coupling distinguishing statements with one of the factors characteristic of that viewpoint. Finally, in a qualitative analysis, we used the distinguishing statements and insights from interviews to create narratives and titles for the three factors: (1) Ports are key for our economic wealth, hence port development should continue, (2) Nature first, and (3) Multi-actor governance. Our findings confirm consensuses in three areas: policy, land use, and mitigation tactics. Interestingly, all narratives unanimously agreed on the importance of regulating port development and land use changes via legislation and environmental impact assessments. However, they debated the rigidity of legislation and whether offsetting port expansion (and associated land and resource use claims) should take place locally or internationally. We also found that decision-making mostly followed a human-centered perspective, where economic values were more relevant than intrinsic ones. These insights can serve as a baseline for stakeholders to form coalitions around areas of consensus to depolarize debates and avoid decision-making gridlocks.

Original languageEnglish
Article number117937
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
Early online date5 May 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2023


  • Decision support tools
  • Port land use
  • Q-methodology
  • Stakeholder participation
  • Sustainability
  • Value pluralism


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