We want you to know what is going on in the BOD, our meetings, our actions, members leaving, the new ones elected,... but text written in this blog cannot be taken an official position or statement of the Society for Conservation Biology. Probably it is not even an official statement of the section... as these need to be approved by the members.

Friday, 19 June 2015

Student Conference on Conservation Science SCCS Hungary, 2015

SCCS Hungary – Connecting Eastern and Western Europe in conservation biology
Tihany (Lake Balaton), Hungary
1 – 5 September, 2015

Not too much time is left to register for one of the greatest student
conference in conservation biology in Europe. Renowned plenary
speakers, trainings and workshops designed for young conservationists, field trips and fun at the largest lake in Central-Europe, Balaton, Hungary, for a student-friendly low all-inclusive fee. 

Don’t miss out, register on-line:

During the three conference days and the two excursions we aim to connect conservation biology students from all over Europe and beyond. We offer them an exciting opportunity to gain a deeper insight into the different conservation science projects and topics of the attending countries, focusing particularly on their regional unique natural values, conservation problems, methods, and solutions. 

We are proudly advertise our prominent keynote speakers, including Julia Marton-Lefevre, former executive director to IUCN, profs William Sutherland, Rhys Green and Rosie Trelevyan from the „mother” Cambridge SCCS team, Tibor Hartel from Romania and Ferenc Jordán from Hungary.

For the preliminary program visit: http://sccs.okologia.mta.hu/program,

The all-inclusive conference fee is only 270 Euro - including the
conference registration, accomodation and catering (three meals per day) during the conference and a half-day trip to the Tihany
Peninsula, a World Heritage site of UNESCO (4th of September).

Bursaries are available for a limited number of foreign students, 135 Euro (all-inclusive). For a special offer for Hungarian students
please contact sccs@okologia.mta.hu.

Registration deadline is 15 July 2015.

SCCS Hungary organisers

Tihany (Lake Balaton), Conference venue 

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Conservation science as an antidote to EU conservation politics (mis-) guided by interests

Bonn, Nairobi, New York, Washington, Gland, Paris - the geography of decision-making in international conservation policy is complex, and one of the most influential hubs is Brussels. It is the birthplace of the EU Birds and the Habitats Directives that underlie Natura 2000, the world’s most ambitious site-based conservation project. Their implementation, however, has been accompanied by a background noise of political struggles. And this ado is currently growing. With his rise to power in 2014, the new Commission President Juncker programmed a “Fitness Check” for the two EU conservation directives. Among conservation advocates, this assessment is feared to serve as an excuse for softening the directives and reversing important achievements made under considerable efforts. The Policy Committee (PC) of the Society for Conservation Biology’s Europe Section thinks scientific information is badly needed in the ongoing battle of interests and opinions. Thus, we decided this year’s PC meeting should make the Society visible on the spot as a unique stakeholder that can feed tested “top runner” scientific evidence into this and other important debates.

On 26 and 27 May, facilitated by Belgian PC member Willem Laermans’ brilliant logistical coordination, we met with delegates of the European Parliament, Commission representatives as well as Brussels-based conservation advocates from the NGO sphere. As we had hoped, Micheal O’Briain, Deputy Head of the Nature Unit at Directorate-General Environment, was willing to give us a comprehensive overview of the “Fitness Check” and its uses and misuses. We agreed the Society’s Europe Section should participate in the ongoing public consultation, possibly including an in-depth comment on the different Fitness Check questions under scrutiny. The value of such a contribution was confirmed by a delegation of BirdLife International, led by its Head of EU Policy, Ariel Brunner. With BirdLife, we also discussed cornerstones of a possible strategic collaboration between our institutions. We are glad Trees Robijns, Birdlife’s Senior EU Agriculture and Bioenergy Policy Officer, will be able to attend the upcoming ICCB-ECCB 2015 in August this year.

Agriculture was also in the focus of our meeting with the German Members of Parliament Maria Heubuch (Greens), Susanne Melior and Maria Noichl (both Socialists & Democrats). Our exchange addressed the failed “greening” reform of the EU Common Agricultural Policy. The exchange proved so fruitful that this can certainly be considered the start of a continued dialogue in the future. We are also deeply grateful to Maria Heubuch for hosting us and helping us to make our Brussels trip a success.

Another meeting brought us together with Karin Zaunberger and Nicholas Hanley (both DG Environment) as well as Arnold Jacques de Dixmude (DG International Cooperation and Development). They are involved in efforts directed at a better conservation and sustainable development in the EU’s Overseas Territories and Outermost Regions, a conglomerate of small to large territories that cover the same area as the “core” EU, but which are spread across the globe. We explored options how the Society and its worldwide expert network may add value to these European activities. Mrs Zaunberger confirmed she will take part in a round-table discussion on EU Overseas Territories at the ICCB-ECCB 2015.

The Roadless Areas Initiative, initiated by our Policy Committee in 2007, was another important item of our agenda in Brussels. While the Roadless Areas Initiative has flourished into an activity across SCB sections since then, we think it is also time to reach out beyond the scientific community to policy-makers. Our Brussels visit thus marked the onset of a dialogue with DG Mobility and Transport. With Judit Bertrand, who is involved in coordination of the Trans-European Transport Networks TEN-T, we had a promising brainstorming exercise how transport planning in the EU may start to take into account the remaining roadless areas.

We are looking forward to our next meeting at the ICCB-ECCB 2015 in two months in Montpellier. Symposia organised by the Policy Committee of SCB’s Europe Section will follow up on Natura 2000, the Common Agriculture Policy, roadless areas and more. Be there and check them out!

Stefan Kreft
(Chair of the Policy Committee of the Society for Conservation Biology - Europe Section)

The Policy Committee at the main entrance to the European Parliament in Brussels, 26 May 2015. From right to left: Willem Laermans, Martin Dieterich, Zdenka Křenova, Per Sjögren-Gulve, Guy Pe’er, Stefan Kreft
Photo:Guy Pe’er

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

What are forests? A debate in the magazine Nature

Recently we published a short response in Nature on a paper by Fares et al. that clearly confused forests and forestry when proposing how "sustainability" (of the industry?) should be achieved under climate change. As conservation biologist it should be obvious that forests are much more than timber, pulp and energy. We wish that this was evident also for a broader set of researcher and practitioners dealing with forest ecosystems. Apparently this was not the case for Fares and co-authors. Below is our initial somewhat longer submission to Nature. For the publication itself, see Jonsson, Pe'er & Svoboda, Nature 521: 32 ("Forests: not just timber plantations"): http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v521/n7550/full/521032b.html

Forests:  Not just timber plantations!

Foresty is different ....
Fares et al. (Nature 519, 25 March 2015) offer useful recommendations for commodity forest landscapes, whose main goal is timber production. Yet the authors treat 30% of Europe’s terrestrial area as if they were plantations, discounting many other ecosystem services provided by forests. Their interventions ignore broad scientific evidence demonstrating that, to secure forests’ multiple values, one must work with nature and learn from it, seeking nature-based solutions rather than going against them (Kraus and Krumm 2013).

...from forests, not obvious to all
One central value is biodiversity, with significant proportion of European species depending on forests as a habitat; many being under severe threats from current forestry practices penetrating into, and fragmenting, forests across Europe. Forests also provide cultural ecosystem services, including recreational opportunities that generate highly significant revenues from tourism.

The interventions proposed by Fares et al. (2015) oppose these values and capacities, following the old-school control and command forestry where ecosystem stressors are maximized in space and time. There is little evidence to support the potential usefulness or benefits of this approach, in Europe or elsewhere in the world. Alternative guiding principles for forest protection should be to maintain landscape connectivity, heterogeneity and structural complexity, and to allow natural ecosystem processes including disturbances (Lindenmayer et al. 2006). Maintaining forests’ natural processes allows them to build resilience to climate change and other disturbances, whilst many forestry practices still do the opposite.

We warn against confusing forestry with forests. It portrays a false message that combating and controlling nature is good for Earth’s climate and offering sustainable solutions in a rapidly changing world. Given current EU deliberation toward a Common Forestry Strategy, we recall that the EU 2020 Biodiversity Strategy (Target 3b) requires minimizing forest management stressors on biodiversity, rather than intensifying pressures and perpetuating the image as if Europe’s forests are plantations.
Fares, S.; Mugnozza, G.S.; Corona, P. and Palahi, M. 2015. Sustainability: Five steps for managing Europe's forests. Nature, 519: 407–409.
Kraus, D. and Krumm, F. (eds) 2013. Integrative approaches as an opportunity for the conservation of forest biodiversity. European Forest Institute. 248 pp.
Lindenmayer, D. et al. 2006. General management principles and a checklist of strategies to guide forest biodiversity conservation. Biological Conservation, 131: 433–445.

Bengt Gunnar Jonsson Mid Sweden University, Sundsvall, Sweden
Guy Pe’er, UFZ – Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, Leipzig, Germany.
Miroslav Svoboda, Czech University of Life Sciences, Prague, Czech Republic