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Understanding conservation conflicts associated with rodent outbreaks in farmland areas


Rodent outbreaks affect many farmland areas worldwide and the negative environmental impacts of control campaigns cause intense social tensions. In such conservation conflicts, understanding stakeholders’ viewpoints is critical to promote ecologically sustainable management. We used Q-methodology, a framework standing between qualitative and quantitative social research, to investigate human subjectivity and understand conflicts caused by rodent outbreaks in Spain. We interviewed farmers, conservationists, hunters, and governmental agencies, and identified five main discourses about the origins and consequences of the conflictive situation. Finding sustainable management is impaired by opposing views about causes and consequences of vole outbreaks and their management, which are at the root of the conflict. Social tensions will likely remain until the underlying conflicts between people holding different views are also managed. Decision-making should therefore focus on mitigating underlying conflicts. Using trained independent mediators would help the effective resolution of conservation conflicts caused by rodent outbreaks and their management.

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We are grateful to all the respondents of this study for their cooperation. We warmly thank Juan José Luque-Larena for his help with the fieldwork, and for reviewing the pilot Q-samples. V.L had a full-time salary funded by the Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon.

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Correspondence to Valentin Lauret.

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Lauret, V., Delibes-Mateos, M., Mougeot, F. et al. Understanding conservation conflicts associated with rodent outbreaks in farmland areas. Ambio 49, 1122–1133 (2020).

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  • Farmland pest
  • Human dimensions
  • Microtus arvalis
  • Socioecological systems
  • Sustainable conservation
  • Wildlife management