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The Naturalist's Journals of Gilbert White: exploring the roots of accounting for biodiversity and extinction accounting

Atkins, Jill ORCID: and Maroun, Warren 2020. The Naturalist's Journals of Gilbert White: exploring the roots of accounting for biodiversity and extinction accounting. Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal 33 (8) , pp. 1835-1870. 10.1108/AAAJ-03-2016-2450

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Purpose: This paper explores the historical roots of accounting for biodiversity and extinction accounting by analysing the 18th-century Naturalist's Journals of Gilbert White and interpreting them as biodiversity accounts produced by an interested party. The authors aim to contribute to the accounting history literature by extending the form of accounting studied to include nature diaries as well as by exploring historical ecological accounts, as well as contributing to the burgeoning literature on accounting for biodiversity and extinction accounting. Design/methodology/approach: The authors’ method involves analysing the content of Gilbert White's Naturalist's Journals by producing an 18th-century biodiversity account of species of flora and fauna and then interpretively drawing out themes from the Journals. The authors then provide a Whitean extinction account by comparing current species' status with White's biodiversity account from 250 years ago. Findings: This paper uses Gilbert White's Naturalist's Journals as a basis for comparing biodiversity and natural capital 250 years ago with current species' status according to extinction threat and conservation status. Further the paper shows how early nature diary recording represents early (and probably the only) forms of accounting for biodiversity and extinction. The authors also highlight themes within White's accounts including social emancipation, problematisation, aesthetic elements and an example of an early audit of biodiversity accounting. Research limitations/implications: There are limitations to analysing Gilbert White's Naturalist's Journals given that the only available source is an edited version. The authors therefore interpret their data as accounts which are indicative of biodiversity and species abundance rather than an exactly accurate account. Practical implications: From the authors’ analysis and reflections, the authors suggest that contemporary biodiversity accounting needs to incorporate a combination of narrative, data accounting and pictorial/aesthetic representation if it is to provide a rich and accurate report of biodiversity and nature. The authors also suggest that extinction accounting should draw on historical data in order to demonstrate change in natural capital over time. Social implications: Social implications include the understanding gleaned from the authors’ analysis of the role of Gilbert White as a nature diarist in society and the contribution made over time by his Journals and other writings to the development of nature accounting and recording, as well as to one’s understanding and knowledge of species of flora and fauna. Originality/value: To the authors’ knowledge this is the first attempt to analyse and interpret nature diaries as accounts of biodiversity and extinction.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Business (Including Economics)
Publisher: Emerald
ISSN: 0951-3574
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 12 April 2023
Date of Acceptance: 17 March 2020
Last Modified: 03 Jun 2023 19:07

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