Lake BESS results presented at the BES-BESS Symposium 2017, Cardiff, 24-26 April

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.

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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:

Lake BESS talk Cardiff for blogpostLake BESS talk Cardiff for blogpost2Lake BESS talk Cardiff for blogpost3

Fermanagh is the happiest place in the UK!

The BBC reported today that Fermanagh is the happiest place in the UK according to a recent survey by the ONS. Is there a link with the exceptional freshwater biodiversity levels we found during our work in the Upper Lough Erne region, part of Co. Fermanagh? Our Lake BESS work is only a preliminary step towards answering such fundamental question: a whole new research agenda lies ahead of us to better understand the value of nature and ecosystems in what is often referred to as coupled human-environment systems.

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Workshop on Biodiveristy and Ecosystem Services Resilience

The BESS resilience workshop on June 18th and 19th was a great success with over twenty attendees, mostly BESS researchers but also JNCC and Welsh government representatives.

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We also had two special guests, Volker Grimm and Hanna Weise from the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research, Leipzig, Germany, who presented fascinating background information about ecosystem resilience. Volker was a pioneer in trying to understand how the notion of resilience can be applied in ecology and his 1997 seminal paper is worthwhile a read.

The first day’s discussions were focussed on defining resilience, while in the second day we explored the multiple ways that can be used to measure ecosystem resilience.

It was very enlightening to hear different researchers from different BESS projects explain how ecosystem resilience was relevant to their work. The diversity of opinion was absolutely overwhelming! To such an extent that after two days of lively discussion it became very difficult to produce a short summary or a take-home message.

There was however two important points most attendees agreed upon:

  • Resilience is a useful notion for their work
  • It will be worth pursuing our quest to understand ecosystem resilience after the meeting – and we are already getting organise to do so.