In addition to my talk at the BES annual meeting, Althea Davies from the University of St Andrews and I had organised a session for which we invited keynote speakers on the theme: “Advancing our understanding of long-term ecology”
The Line up:
Maria Dornelas, University of St Andrews, UK: Temporal change in biodiversity change in the Anthropocene
Lizzy Jeffers, University of Oxford, UK: Plant controls on Late Quaternary whole ecosystem structure and function
Will Gosling, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands: Advancing palaeo-fire ecology
Helen Bennion, University College London, UK: Assessing the potential for aquatic plant recolonisation after local extirpation
Alistair Seddon, University of Bergen, Norway: Assessing ecological resilience using long-term ecological data: perspectives and prospects
Sandra Nogué, University of Southampton, UK: Comparative ecology of the Laurel forest pollen rain from Tenerife and La Gomera
Jack Williams, University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA: Ecological and Environmental Novelty
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.
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: