Systematic knowledge about factors affecting the willingness of societies to conserve biodiversity is still scarce. This study investigates the role of body size in national decisions on wild animal species by analysing the average body sizes of the animal species subject to species-specific legislation in the Netherlands over the period 1857-1995. Three legal objectives were distinguished, namely 'control', 'use' and 'protection'. For most taxa, average body sizes of species were found to differ significantly between legal objectives within a substantial number of subperiods analysed. Throughout the entire period examined, protected bird, mammal, fish and mollusc species were of smaller average body size than those subject to use legislation and protected bird, mammal and mollusc species were also smaller than those subject to control legislation most of the time. Protected insects were generally larger than those subject to control or use. For vertebrate taxa, average sizes of protected species increased over the time period selected for examination, suggesting that legislation initially excluded larger vertebrates from protection, possibly partly owing to demands to maintain use of these species. The results emphasize that conservation context is important, as other studies suggest that conservation policy generally favours larger species.
- the Netherlands
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