The goal of our Society for Conservation Biology (SCB) Europe Section Blog is to share stories and relevant information about activities going on within our section and more broadly in the conservation community. Stories and articles shared on our blog should not be taken as an official position or statement of SCB or SCB Europe Section. Thank you for reading!

Wednesday, 14 October 2020

Greetings from the Europe Section Policy Committee

I am Per Sjögren-Gulve and since January 2020 the Chair of the Europe Section's Policy Committee and also a member of the Section's Board of Directors (BOD). Here, I would like to start by highlighting a scientific publication: An international study on the negative effects of salvage logging, led by Simon Thorn (Univ. of Würzburg, Germany) * Simon was one of the panelists at the Committee's panel discussion "Forests at risk: Bialowieza and beyond" at the European Congress of Conservation Biology (ECCBS) 2018 in Jyväskylä. The panel was followed by a same-named conference in Warsaw in the early 2019, organised by Polish forest ecologists and with our section as partner for the scientific programme. The Policy Committee was intensively involved in all this and is now very happy that the paper was published in Nature Communications (!). Congratulations Simon Thorn et al.! I'd also like to communicate some of the work on the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), its effects and challenges that has highlight some of the PC member Guy Pe'er et al.'s work. For example: * Action needed for the EU Common Agricultural Policy to address sustainability challenges * How green is greening? A fine-scale analysis of spatio-temporal dynamics in Germany * The EU’s Common Agricultural Policy Could Be Spent Much More Efficiently to Address Challenges for Farmers, Climate, and Biodiversity.

Monday, 23 March 2020

Reflections from Student Conference on Conservation Science held in 2019, Tihany, Hungary

Guest Post by Tiffany Ki, Student Blogging Contest Series 2019

From the 27th-31st August, I attended the Student Conference in Conservation Science (SCCS) Europe 2019, hosted at the MTA Limnological institute in beautiful Tihany, Hungary. The presentations, posters and workshops were fantastic and perhaps unique to this conference there were also many group activities, like lunchtime dips and chats in Lake Balaton. All participants of the conference (including plenary speakers) took part in these together, which allowed us to get to know each other very well. This conference helped me gain insights and inspirations. First, I will take you first through these new insights into my board game; and then into the inspiration to develop my hemipteran identification skills. 

The insights for my board game…

Faced with severe threats on our ecosystems posed by human activity and the general undervaluing of the natural world, as a researcher I see that conservation cannot be done without the public being on board – thus I am driven to improve public awareness of ecosystem services. I am developing a board game focused on highlighting the concepts and values of ecosystem services. Unlike common resource management games, e.g. Monopoly, where individuals can develop infinitely, the board game will first allow the player to conduct industrial development at no cost, but later on the ecosystems will become unstable due to the high biodiversity loss. Players then must pay the price incurred by the loss of these ‘free’ ecosystem services.

During the conference, Dr. Eszter Kelemen gave a plenary talk and workshop on the diversity of values people hold for nature and the difficulties that this poses for policy, such as in her work on the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). Before we discussed IPBES and values of nature, Eszter proposed that the word ‘value’ itself is hugely subjective, in that it could mean:

  • a measure (the most superficial), e.g. the greater monetary value of one forest over another
  • a preference, e.g. to develop on degraded land as opposed to primary forest;
  • an importance, e.g. primary forests are more important for biodiversity; 
  • or a matter of principles, e.g. conservation of biodiversity should be a priority
Most valuations of nature are just at the level of measure. Indeed, I had never thought of values as having multiple levels, and this troubled me as I could not imagine how it would be possible to embrace this multidimensionality in my board game! She further suggested that until we are able to use a pluralistic approach to ‘value’ nature itself with variable methodologies, it will only push for incentives in this direction and never go beyond seeing nature as a measure or matter of preference. We then saw this in practice when we participated in her workshop – each group had a set methodology and we all came to different conclusions regarding whether or not a development project on a hypothetical island was ‘valuable’. Needless to say, that afternoon I came to view the creation of this game as a momentous challenge, perhaps one that should not even be attempted as it was bound for failure – but then I had a chat with Eszter about my idea. She wasn’t nearly as pessimistic about it as I was. In fact, she thought my idea was rather exciting. It’s true that would be impossible to encapsulate the true diversity of ‘values’ for our ecosystems within this game, but it was possible to promote some of its diversity. This is a start to allowing people to realise this true plurality. As I develop my board game, I will continue to discuss these kinds of things with Eszter.

Another source of insight for my board game came from Devesh Gadhavi, who has been working on the conservation of the Critically Endangered Great Indian Bustard (GIB). He and his colleagues from the Corbett Foundation have developed a holistic conservation project involving a range of people, from villagers to politicians, that addresses needs from structuring crop rotation for the conservation of the species, to meeting social needs such as improving female literacy and providing 24 hour veterinary care. This has seen great success recently with the whole community coming together to care for and protect the GIB and its habitat. One of the tools Devesh developed is the board game, ‘GIB My Friend’, to improve public awareness of the threats and conservation interventions for the species. Hearing about his work has given me hope that my board game too might one day bring more people to care about our ecosystems and protect them. Devesh has given me invaluable advice on making my board game, and I have built a connection with a future mentor.

The board game, ‘GIB My Friend’

The inspiration to learn to identify hemiptera well…and quickly!

As a researcher interested in understanding arthropod diversity and functional ecology in order to develop management strategies to improve ecosystem functioning, I was truly amazed by the community ecology research presented at the conference. One thing I was confronted with was my lack of knowledge in hemiptera, given their importance to functional diversity, and I left the conference driven to put more time into them. I also anticipate I will be learning lots from hemipterist Jelena Šeat! I’d also like to congratulate Andreas for winning the best Community Ecology presentation – I look forward to reading more about it in his Community Ecology paper!

Finally, I’d like to thank the SCCS Europe team. I highly recommend this interdisciplinary conference to any early career researcher interested in connecting their work to conservation science! I greatly increased my understanding of science and policy in Europe, and befriended many amazing researchers that I’m excited to collaborate with them on future projects!

About the author

 Tiffany Ki is an applied ecologist who is working as a Policy Intern at the British Ecological Society, after finishing her Master’s degree at University of East Anglia (UK) in summer 2019; and she is the current Varley-Gradwell Travelling Fellow in Insect Ecology.

Thursday, 27 February 2020

Being President?!

Being President

 SCB Europe Section Board at ECCB2018

I have served as President-elect and President of the Europe Section of the Society for Conservation Biology (SCB) since 2015. My term will now end by December 2020. The term “President” may sound prestigious and demanding, but in practice, more represent being a coordinator and having oversight of the activities of the Section. With an active Board composed of dedicated persons, it is not a difficult task. It is enjoyable and provide opportunities to interact with many of the core conservation scientists active in Europe. Further, as Section Presidents also holds positions on the global Board of Governors of SCB, it provide contacts with the worldwide community of conservation scientists from many sub-disciplines. Personally, this has expanded my understanding on global conservation challenges enormously and played a significant role in my personal development as a researcher. It has been a rare opportunity and I congratulate whoever will take over my position.

In practice, the work being President means to plan and lead Board meetings, maintain contacts with Section committees, together with the treasurer provide oversight of the Section budget and spending’s, and as said, serve on the global Board of Governors. One of the main Section activities are the European Congress of Conservation Biology (ECCB), which we arrange every third year. The next ECCB will take place in Prague, August 2021. The planning for this major event is on track with a local organization committee with good experience in holding conferences. Other important activities relate to our annual Summer School in European Conservation Biology and the various awards that we provide to students as well as to more senior scientist. An exciting development is that we are well underway to establish the Section as European legal entity and hence move to a more independent relation to global SCB. We strongly believe that fundraising will be easier with a European account compared to asking sponsor to send their support overseas to USA. A target with this move is also to allow us to establish an SCB office within Europe.

Admittedly, we have had problems of recruiting a new President to the Section. When I became President-elect, we had a system of serving first three years as President-elect, followed by three years as President. In late 2017, we had election for President-elect but failed to get any nominee for the position. The Board had serious discussion and decided to change the system to a 1+3 years term, with the hope that it would be easier to recruit if the time commitment became shorter. It was hence a disappointment when we in the election for 2020 again failed to get any nomination for the position. For that reason, we will now have to open another election for the President position, with the aim to have a President-elect during parts of 2020. This will allow a transition period and a chance for the new President to follow the work of the Board for some time before taking over the leadership of the Section. It is my sincere hope that we will be more successful this time!

Yes, being President represent work, but it is fun, rewarding and a unique opportunity to expand you professional network. The Europe Section play an important role to promote conservation within Europe, a role that matters and contribute towards the society’s mission to “To advance the science and practice of conserving Earth’s biological diversity”. So please consider this opportunity and run for being the next SCB Europe Section President!

Bengt Gunnar Jonsson
Current SCB Europe Section President
Mid Sweden University, Sundsvall, Sweden