Ecological restoration (pictured here, sand dune restoration conducted by NH Sea Grant in New Hampshire, USA) is a form of solution science. (Image Credit: Caitlin Mandeville., CC BY 2.0, Image Cropped)
Shining a Brighter Light on Solution Science in Ecology (2020) Doubleday & Connell, One Earth, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.oneear.2019.12.009
These days, it can feel hard to go even a day without thinking about the many environmental challenges facing the world. Climate change, habitat degradation, species extinctions… it can all feel a bit overwhelming sometimes. In fact, many of us ecologists chose careers in this field because we hope to contribute to solving these problems. There is no doubt that many of the questions investigated by ecologists have direct relevance to our ability to live more sustainably on earth. But how often do ecologists make the leap from basic ecological knowledge to the ways that this knowledge can be used to make a positive difference in the world?
In a January 2020 publication, authors Doubleday and Connell calculated the percentage of articles published in top ecology journals that have a clear focus on solving environmental problems and found that only 14% of top ecology articles focus on what they call “solution science”.
Image Credit: rumpleteaser, CC BY 2.0, Image Cropped
2019 was a year in which many changes that our planet is experiencing came to the fore, capped off in December by the Australian bushfires, a phenomenon that scientists predicted would start to occur with increasing intensity at the beginning of last decade. With all the change that our planet is currently undergoing, it’s always worth noting that the discipline of ecology itself has changed as well.
Over 2019 we got to sit down and talk to some pretty exciting people. And whether they were at the forefront of genomics, the science-policy interface, or the wave of inclusivity currently sweeping ecology, they all had some great comments on how ecology has changed over the last few decades.
I sat down with leader of the UK Ladybirds Survey Helen Roy to talk about the stigma surrounding invasive species like this Harlequin Ladybird (Image Credit: PJ Taylor, Pixabay Licence, Image Cropped)
While climate change and habitat loss seem to keep making all the headlines when it comes to environmental damage, invasive species are still chugging along comfortably as the second biggest threat to our planet’s biodiversity. New cases are popping up all the time, with the Burmese python, Crucian carp and the emerald ash borer beetle recently reaching new levels of notoriety.
Yet the negative impact that many non-native species have on the habitats they move into have often led to stigmatisation of anything new. This can be counter-productive, as the majority of newcomers into an ecosystem won’t have a pronounced negative effect. And whilst it may seem like a smart piece of preventative management to maintain an ecosystem’s status quo by preventing species introductions, it’s often just not feasible.
With this in mind, I sat down at the recent British Ecological Society’s Annual Meeting with Professor Helen Roy of the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. Helen has studied the impacts of non-native species the world over, from the UK to smaller island nations like St. Helena, and has led several projects for the European Commission on non-native species. We spoke about the importance of distinguishing between invasives and non-natives, the impact of climate change on invasive biology, and the social and cultural significance of both native and non-native species.
Image Credit: Elliott Brown, CC BY 2.0, Image Cropped
Making Brexit work for environment and livelihoods: Delivering a stakeholder informed vision for agriculture and fisheries (2019) Beukers-Stewart et al., People and Nature, https://doi.org/10.1002/pan3.10054
Ok, last article on Brexit for the time being. Everyone rest easy. This week’s paper looks once again at the consequences of Brexit for both the agricultural and fishing industries, and the knock-on effects on Britain’s farmland and marine ecosystems. As has been echoed both by this week’s earlier interview with Abigail McQuatters-Gollop and the views from this week’s British Ecological Society Annual Meeting, Brexit can represent an opportunity. An opportunity to put together a directive that helps maintain both marine and terrestrial ecosystems whilst not putting the people at a disadvantage.
This week’s paper is trying to get an understanding of how to put together that framework, by speaking to the people Brexit will likely impact more quickly than others: farmers and fishers. Government subsidies support many British farmers, and it’s not clear whether they’ll remain in place going forwards. Quotas could shift dramatically for fishers.
Image Credit: Abigail McQuatters-Gollop, CC BY 2.0, Image Cropped
For the past three and a half years, the UK has been trawled through the political benthic sludge that is Brexit. With a second general election in two years arriving this Thursday, some sort of resolution finally seems to be on the horizon. And while much of the public discourse has focussed on the potential implications for Brexit following the election, climate change and the environment have also featured heavily.
Bill Sutherland was one of two keynote speakers in last week’s seminar on biodiversity and ecosystem services (Image Credit: Øystein Kielland, NTNU University Museum, CC BY 2.0)
I’ve been on a bit of a policy trip lately. The latest Norwegian Ecological Society conference was heavily policy based, so much so that it inspired me to get in touch and set up a meeting with local freshwater managers in a country in which I do not speak the local language. So when the CBD hosted a one-day seminar on the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (mercifully usually referred to only as IPBES) rolled into town, I was right on board.
The city of Tromsø, in which the NØF 2019 Conference took place last week (Image Credit: The Municipality of Tromsø, Image Cropped, CC BY 2.0)
I spent last week up in Tromsø, Norway, for the 4th Conference of the Norwegian Ecological Society. A two-hour flight further north might not seem like a big deal, however if I were a species alone to myself, my northern distribution limit based on temperature would be Trondheim, where I currently reside. It’s just too damn cold for an Australian in the Arctic Circle! Yet Tromso was surprisingly mild last week, coming off the back of a particularly warm winter. And whilst that might sound great, warming temperatures in the Arctic may cause a plethora of negative effects on local wildlife, including starving local reindeer populations and reducing the vital mosquito population.