My teaching and research are focussed on understanding how biodiversity and ecosystems respond to environmental change. This understanding is critically important to developing evidence-based policies to conserve biodiversity, protect the environment and maintain ecosystem services in the current context of global change.
Professor Helen Bennion presented some of our NERC Hydroscape research at the joint meeting of the International Paleolimnology Association and the International Association of Limnogeology, Stockholm, Sweden, June 18-21, 2018 (see site).
Baird, D., Fairbairn, A., Jenkins, E., Martin, L, Middleton, C., Pearson, J., Asouti, E., Edwards, Y., Kabukcu, C., Mustafaoğlu, G., Nerissa Russell, N., Bar-Yosef, O., Jacobsen, G., Wu, X, Baker, A., Elliott, S. (2018) Agricultural origins on the Anatolian plateau. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
It was exciting to hear that our abstract was accepted for an oral presentation at this conference dedicated to aquatic plants. The research presented attempted to explain the decline in diversity of emergent aquatic plants in the Upper Lough Erne area, Northern Ireland, UK and related change to landscape connectivity. This presentation was supported by NERC through my two postdoc projects, Lake BESS and Hydroscape.
Although only halfway through this one week course, I am already blown away! I signed up to open new opportunities for my datasets and this course on Structural Equation Modelling (SEM) is exceeding my expectations. And here again, like on field work, lots of jolly Hydroscape camaraderie with fellow Hydroscape researchers Geoff Phillips, Alan Law and mad tweeter Dr ZP @ZarahPattison
This course, organised by PR Statistics and delivered by experts Jarret Byrnes and Jon Lefcheck, is taking us through all the basic of SEMs and is designed for us to become independent in implementing SEMs using our own data – or even better to collect data that will make the most of this analytical method.
SEMs allow us to account for the complexity of the natural world when analysing data collected in the field and get to grips with direct and indirect cause to effect relationship among variables.
One week of field work in North Norfolk, surveying aquatic plants and collecting water samples for analysis in the lab. Working as a team with my colleagues from the University of Stirling, we completed all the planned work, which was a mammoth task and only possible thanks to amazing team work. Amongst other things, we completed 34 surveys of aquatic plants (totalling 580 macrophyte observations across North Norfolk) and revisited all of last year’s 28 sites.
BESS – Biodiversity & Ecosystem Services Sustainability – was a £15M 2011-2017 research programme funded by NERC, the UK research council concerned with the natural environment. This conference was a wrap up event co-organised with the BES, the British Ecological Society and hosted by the Water Research Institute at Cardiff University.
It was a great opportunity to present results from our Lakes BESS project, my first postdoc, and interact with a fun bunch of researchers with similar interests. It was also a chance to learn about the tremendous research advances in the field of biodiversity and ecosystem services achieved by BESS researchers and others.
The most thought-provoking talk was delivered by Kai Chan from the University of British Columbia, Canada. He defended ideas published in his 2016 PNAS paper:
Chan et al 2016. Why protect nature? Rethinking values and the environment PNAS 113 (6) 1462-1465. doi:10.1073/pnas.1525002113
His talk aimed to demonstrate that relational values drive biodiversity and ecosystem services protection, in addition to the commonly accepted intrinsic and instrumental values of nature.
Was the audience convinced? His talked certainly sparked great interest and numerous questions. For sure there is an empty gap to be filled around the classic divide between protecting the environment for its intrinsic value or for very utilitarian reasons. This simplistic intrinsic-instrumental value scheme is simply not sufficient anymore.
However, I remain to be convinced ‘relational values’ completely fill this gap – and even I remain to fully comprehend what is meant by ‘relational values’ – a notion I am not familiar enough with, as an ecologist.
The other outstanding talk I would like to highlight here is that of Elena Bennett from McGill University, Canada. She demonstrated with practical example from work carried out by her lab how ecosystem services can inform multifunctional landscape management.
She also finished her talk by reminding us about the “importance of the contributions of both nature and human action to the provision of services”, i.e. the natural environment does not simply provide us with what we need, quite the reverse ecosystem services also strongly depend on us working with nature, in a co-production.
Many other contributions could be mentioned here, including a whole session dedicated to ecological resilience. Our Lake BESS presentation was well received judging by the positive comments people shared.
My talk title was: Landscape connectivity is important for lake ecosystem function and biodiversity and I am pleased to share slides from the introduction and conclusion: