The concept of stewardship in sustainability science and conservation biology
Abstract This paper focuses on the development and meaning of the stewardship concept in the current environmental science, ecology and biodiversity conservation literature. Stewardship broadly refers to a form of collaborative planning and responsible management of the environment through sustainable natural resource management practices that respect ecosystem functions. The objective of this paper is to discuss the various meanings of stewardship in the fields of environmental science and biodiversity conservation. Our main interest is to explore how different political ideologies and ethical values of stewardship shape the conceptualisation of conservation actions and policies, and why do these matter for conservation policy in the context of the new conservation debate. To address this objective we adapted the political science framework developed by Dryzek (2013) and applied it to existing stewardship approaches in use. Based on two dimensions (reformist vs radical and imaginative vs prosaic) we identified 4 main types of stewardship: reformist, adaptive, sustainability and transformative stewardship. The key distinctions between stewardship types are (i) the role of science, (ii) the exploration and integration of the plurality of values, and (iii) the capacity to modify values, rules and decision-making system. We conclude with a discussion on the consequences of these results and present future directions for both research and conservation policy.