Naturalness and principle pluralism in conservation

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The concept of naturalness in biodiversity conservation remains polysemic, hampering decision-making. Although some conservationists claim ecosystem naturalness should be primarily determined by composition (integrity), others argue it should be determined by the extent of freedom from anthropogenic influence (autonomy). Problems arise when deciding how to treat affected ecosystems. Although the integrity school promotes benchmark-based active restoration, the autonomy school advocates a hands-off policy, making these 2 approaches contradictory. Moreover, expected global changes have promoted advocacy for ecosystem resilience, further complicating the debate. We argue that autonomy, integrity, and resilience are all morally valid. The conflict between them is contained by recognizing that full naturalness is an unattainable goal; restoration and rewilding processes are not an act of curation, but a contrary-to-duty obligation; principle pluralism can accommodate integrity, resilience, and autonomy as pro tanto principles in a case-specific approach; and naturalness, as an overarching value, gives unity to the plurality of principles.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numbere14137
JournalConservation Biology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2023


  • Autonomía
  • autonomy
  • ecosistema
  • ecosystem
  • equilibrio reflexivo
  • ethics
  • integridad
  • integrity
  • reflective equilibrium
  • resilience
  • resiliencia
  • ética

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Ecology


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