Plenaries

Rhys Green - How to feed the world while doing least harm to wild species

 

Humans have already converted the natural vegetation of much of the world’s land surface so as to grow food. In doing that, we have changed or destroyed the habitats of a huge number of wild species.  Some species have done better as a result and others have done worse.  It is possible to make farms better for some wild species by reducing the intensity of agriculture or retaining small fragments of semi-natural vegetation and wetland within the landscape. However, this often results in less food being produced per unit area of those farmed landscapes.  Producing the food demanded by human populations might then require more land to be farmed elsewhere, removing the natural habitats upon which many wild species depend and thereby doing more harm than good to biodiversity as a whole. So is it better to retain on-farm wildlife but at the cost of lowering yields, or to increase yields, limit the area needed for farming and thereby retain larger areas under natural habitats – or perhaps we should aim for something between the two? I will describe a model designed to answer this question, and review the empirical evidence available to date.

 

 

Zsolt Molnár - Role of Traditional Ecological Knowledge in Cultural Landscapes

 

Cultural landscapes were developed and maintained on the basis of traditional ecological knowledge, the cumulative body of knowledge, practice and belief, evolving by adaptive processes and handed down through generations by cultural transmission. I will explore cultural landscapes, and the use of local and traditional knowledge behind them. In many regions, cultural landscapes and their related knowledge undergo major transformations. Many cultural landscapes persist. But in some landscapes, traditional management may be completely abandoned, resulting in a loss of biological and cultural diversity. National parks have impacts on cultural landscapes. They may motivate and support, or alternatively, prohibit or suppress traditional use. Parks are in a position to develop new ways of conservation management based on local and traditional knowledge, for example, by co-producing knowledge with herders and farmers. European Union policies and regulations are mostly based on Western European experiences, and this may be one of the reasons why they are often inefficient or inappropriate to support cultural landscapes in the East-Central European context. There is an urgent need for landscape- and culture-specific agricultural regulation and subsidy systems. Inappropriate regulations and disrespect for local traditions result in maladaptive solutions. The universalism of science needs to be tempered with local and traditional knowledge to produce contextually tailored local solutions. Scientists and policy makers can help those people who still use local and traditional knowledge for their livelihoods. EU policy could effectively help maintain local knowledge-based livelihoods in cultural landscapes by respecting the strong link between nature and culture. 

 

 

David Kleijn - Evidence based biodiversity conservation and delivery of ecosystem services

 

Biodiversity continues to decline, despite the implementation of international conservation conventions and measures. Biodiversity loss should be stopped because of the intrinsic value of species and ecosystems. Furthermore, humans benefit from the services delivered by nature and the decline of these ecosystem services are an additional argument to halt biodiversity loss. Effective conservation strategies require insights in the effects of conservation actions on biodiversity trends. In the first part of my talk and focussing on European farmland species I review the evidence base for conservation on farmland with particular emphasis on the ecological effects of agri-environment schemes, the most important biodiversity conservation initiative in agricultural landscapes. In the second part of my talk I examine, again in agricultural landscapes, whether in real-world landscapes, ecosystem service delivery declines when biodiversity declines. I use mostly examples from the well-examined study system of wild pollinators and insect pollinated crops. For this system there is good evidence for more diverse species communities delivering higher or more stable crop yields. These insights can be used to give farmers agronomic arguments to conserve pollinator biodiversity on their farms. However, a limited subset of all known bee species provides the majority of pollination services because, across crops, years and biogeographical regions, crop-visiting bee communities are dominated by a small number of common species and rarely contain regionally threatened species. This suggests that sustainable conservation of biodiversity needs to distinguish between the functionally important and the vulnerable species and that the conservation of the two species groups require different approaches.

 

 

Piero Visconti - Biodiversity and ecosystem services in Europe and Central Asia – status, trends and future scenarios.

 

The Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), a science-policy platform administered by the United Nations Environment Programme, at its third plenary in January 2015, in Bonn, requested the undertaking of a set of regional and sub-regional assessments of biodiversity and ecosystem services.

These assessments aim to synthesize the body of scientific, indigenous and local knowledge on status and trends of biodiversity and ecosystem services, direct and indirect drivers of change, alternative future scenarios, and key challenges and opportunities for achieving Sustainable Development Goals in each region.

The Europe and Central Asia assessment (ECA) is expected to inform several international environmental agreements, including, among others, the Habitats Directive, the Birds Directive, the Water Framework Directive, the Common Agricultural Policy and the Common Fisheries Policy, the Forest Code of the Russian Federation, the Bern Convention, and of course, the CBD, CITES and CMS. Essentially, the ECA assessment, together with every other IPBES assessment, should provide the science-base underpinning all environmental policies from now on, at all level of governance from national to global. But how do we do this?

In this talk, I will illustrate the key findings from my personal review of the status and trends, and future scenarios of biodiversity and ecosystem services in the ECA region. I will show, where possible, the causal links between the establishment and reform of key policies in the region and environmental changes, and how can we use this understanding to build socio-economic pathways that achieve desirable socio-economic and environmental goals.