Thematic sessions

We are excited to announce the thematic sessions running at Ecology Across Borders.

Thematic sessions provide a high-profile forum for the discussion of timely, innovative and/or important questions, provide local ‘flavour’ within the programme, and showcase integration among disciplines.

Monday 13 December

10:30 – 12:30

Bridging the Gap – linking ecological research to ecosystem renewal for nature & people
Matthew Heard, National Trust
Stewart Clarke, National Trust

The biodiversity crisis cannot be resolved in isolation from wider environmental contexts or from the complex networks of actors, activities, cultures and processes that affect it. However, despite decades of research and policy initiatives we have failed to slow, let alone halt or reverse biodiversity declines. Currently there is an unprecedented willingness to act but there remains significant, unintended disconnects between what different stakeholders want to know and the research that could provide insights. This session seeks to bridge divides between research, policy and practice and reflect on shared experiences to help chart a future that accelerates biodiversity renewal action.

15:30 – 17:30

Agroecological landscapes for the Anthropocene
Adam J. Vanbergen, INRAE UMR Agroécologie
David A. Bohan, INRAE UMR Agroécologie

Global change means we urgently need to transform agriculture from a driver of ecosystem degradation into a positive lever for creating landscapes that deliver sustainable food and multiple ecosystem benefits. Radical rethinking of agricultural systems requires transdisciplinarity, integrating scientific and farming knowledge, to deliver acceptable, operable and effective management solutions from field to landscape scales. We present the ecological and social links between people, farming and nature supporting human well-being alongside visions of how placing nature and people at the centre of a fundamental agricultural transformation can help to achieve a sustainable future.

Tuesday 14 December

08:45 – 10:45

Changing behaviour to bend the curve of biodiversity loss
Melissa Marselle, University of Surrey
Giuseppe Carrus, Università Roma Tre

As human activities are responsible for biodiversity loss, reversing the current trends to bend the curve of biodiversity loss will require significant changes to human behaviour across actors and scales. But the science of behaviour change is rarely used in biodiversity conservation research, leading to unspecified conservation policies and ineffective interventions.

This session will demonstrate the various ways the behavioural sciences can help biodiversity conservation achieve transformational behaviour change and meet the goals of the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration.

Impact of land use on emerging diseases: a One Health perspective
Lucinda Kirkpatrick, University of Antwerp
Olivier Restif, University of Cambridge

The growing threat of emerging zoonotic diseases has cast light on human practices that affect exposure to pathogens. Land use is a cornerstone in zoonotic spillover, affecting biodiversity, population dynamics and socioeconomic activities. With growing evidence that exploitation, urbanisation and habitat degradation can contribute to pathogen spread, comes the prospect of fighting emerging diseases with habitat restoration, sustainable farming and other nature-based solutions. This session will bring together international experts to review the evidence and propose strategies for sustainable land-use policies that can reduce the risks of emerging diseases.

15:00 – 17:00

Planning for the kaleidoscope. How can conservation and restoration be targeted to produce resilient networks for 2050 and beyond?
Jenny Hodgson, University of Liverpool
Claudia Gutierrez, University of Liverpool

Entering a period where widespread restoration occurs worldwide is exciting and hopeful, but also introduces some new complexities. Restoration and conservation measures should be planned in concert, to produce less fragmented, resilient networks that avoid biodiversity and ecosystem service loss in the long term. As we navigate profound socio-economic changes and climate change, we need new multidisciplinary planning approaches. Our diverse set of speakers will present the empirical and methodological ingredients that need to be combined to plan restoration more effectively. We will tackle thorny issues like offsetting risks, non-analog ecosystems and changeable conservation priorities.

Reconstructing long-term variation in ecosystem function and services using organismal functional traits (OFTs)
Jane Bunting, University of Hull
Kerry Brown, Kingston University

A novel and promising approach to reconstructing ecosystem processes from long-term ecological records using organismal functional traits (OFTs) has recently emerged in the literature.  OFTs provide a means for translating the diversity and abundance of species in a community into measures of both the physical environment and the emergent properties of the ecosystem as a whole. The approach lies between the complexity of complete species records and the possible over-simplification of complex assemblages to single number metrics or community classifications, and supports comparison and modelling of ecological functions over time. This session will connect scientists using OFTs to reconstruct the past with those studying present-day ecosystems, sharing knowledge and approaches, and stimulating the development of novel strategies.

Wednesday 15 December

09:00 – 11:00

Restoration in the Anthropocene: how can past environments inform the decade of restoration?
Jessie Woodbridge, University of Plymouth
Althea Davies, University of St Andrews

Achieving the aims of the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration will require multi-disciplinary perspectives and diverse groups to work together. Alongside modern ecological restoration, long-term perspectives on landscape change are vital to understanding the range of variability that underpins realistic ecological baselines, the dynamics of system change, and for setting effective restoration targets. This session brings together restoration ecologists and researchers focussed on longer-term palaeoecological processes through data syntheses to discuss the contributions that these alternative knowledge domains can make to the field of restoration ecology, our understanding of biodiversity change, ‘shifting baseline syndrome’ and emergent narratives around rewilding.

Who the heck is ALAN and why should we care?
Myriam R. Hirt, iDiv
Remo Ryser, iDiv

Artificial light at night (ALAN) is a rapidly increasing global phenomenon that has become one of the most pressing drivers of current global change. This thematic session will present novel findings on how ALAN affects terrestrial aboveground, soil, and aquatic communities, and ecosystem functioning (primary production, predation, invertebrate movement). We want to stimulate exchange among scientists from different disciplines to provide a more holistic picture of how ALAN may undermine biodiversity and ecosystem functioning across ecosystems.

13:00 – 15:00

Theoretical and practical freshwater restoration and Nature-based Solutions in the Anthropocene
Leonard Sandin, Norwegian Institute of Water Research
Lee Brown, University of Leeds

Global climate change is predicted to severely affect freshwater ecosystems, especially in combination with environmental stressors such as land use changes. Freshwaters are already undergoing changes in e.g. temperature and hydrological regime with effects on biotic communities. Many studies have predicted future changes in community composition in freshwaters in response to climate change. The number of rivers and lakes restoration projects implemented across the world has increased during the last decades. Yet, scientific evidence on the long-term effects of such projects and the factors affecting their success or failure is sparse. In this session we will explore how current practical knowledge of freshwater restoration can be combined with theoretical approaches across research fields.

What determines host species roles in multi-host disease dynamics?
Dave Daversa, University of California
Amandine Gamble, University of California

Variation in how different species respond to shared parasites presents one of the biggest impediments to characterizing infection dynamics in real ecosystems, which often contain multiple host species. The host characteristics that underpin their contributions to epidemiological dynamics can take various forms (e.g. ecological, physiological, immunological), making their roles in parasite dynamics particularly challenging to identify. This session will examine the determinants of host species roles in multi-host parasite dynamics. The talks span multiple disciplines and systems and will foster a new biological basis to established theory on multi-host infection dynamics.