BES Annual Meeting Underway in Sheffield

The BES Annual Meeting is underway in Sheffield, with a packed day of presentations and sessions so far. The meeting began with the BES Tansley Lecture, this year delivered by Dr Diana Wall from Colorado State University. Dr Wall discussed the significance of soil biota to the delivery of ecosystem services and stressed that the study of this aspect of biodiversity has been largely neglected to date by ecologists. Dr Wall’s salutary message, as expressed by Roosevelt in 1935, was that ‘A nation that destroys its soil destroys itself’; it is vital that ecologists study this heretofore neglected component of ecosystems in order to better understand how soils sustain the capacity to provide critical services, including food, and how soils can be managed in this context.

The BES Policy Team has so far attended a fascinating range of talks – on everything from the delivery of ecosystem services, to the effectiveness of protected areas under climate change, to an examination of whether ecological networks – as propounded by the Lawton Review – are effective. This latter talk was perhaps the most interesting, as Prof. Adrian Newton from Bournemouth University discussed his team’s use of a Google application to identify what the public of Dorset valued about their natural environment. In analysing the market and non-market ecosystem services delivered by the Frome river catchment in South West England, Prof. Newton and his team built up a composite map illustrating carbon storage, crop production, livestock, timber, cultural services and recreational opportunities. His conclusion? That ecological networks can work for biodiversity – increasing the connectivity of habitat and species richness – and for the delivery of some ecosystem services, but may not work economically, as the opportunity costs for network creation are likely to be higher than the market value of the services delivered.

As with all the sessions at the Annual Meeting so far, there was limited opportunity to delve into more depth with Prof. Newton about this work; the programme for today is just so busy. However there are plenty of networking opportunities and delegates are sure to have the time to ask about this and the other topics covered over a glass of wine later at the first poster session.

Before that point however, Prof. Bill Sutherland will be giving his perspective on the past 12-months in ecology, touching on everything from the Natural Environment White Paper and Lawton Review to the National Planning Policy Framework, badgers and bovine TB and marine protected areas. More information will follow about this in a blog post tomorrow. For now, you can follow all the latest updates from the Annual Meeting through twitter using #BES2011, and get more in depth analysis of sessions through the BES Annual Meeting blog. The latest post discusses a session which took place at lunchtime – on ‘Research Paper to Press Release’, discussing how ecologists can engage with the media to showcase their work.