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Friday, 16 December 2011

The 25th ICCB in New Zealand

SCB celebrated its 25th annual meeting in Auckland, New Zealand in early December. I was fortunate, together with almost 1500 other conservation scientists, to attend the conference. To summarize several hundreds of presentations and posters is not possible, but I like to share a few reflections.

Conservation science easily becomes a science of misery and failures. Species go extinct, ecosystems are being degraded, climate change increases the pressure and the economical crisis leaves less to conservation. However, many speakers urged us to move from the “gloom and doom” to a more positive and hopeful attitude. Yes, things have been lost, but many things have not. Yes, ecosystems are being degraded, but some of the novel ecosystems are also rich in biodiversity and delivers ecosystem services. Yes, climate change is accelerating, but by “greening” degraded lands we can increase carbon stores and create more diverse habitats. By addressing what we can do rather than what is lost we might gain more support and do a better job.

There is a movement towards a closer link between our science and policy making. This was exemplified in many presentations and also reflected in the ongoing process to establish the Intergovernmental Science Policy Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES; see previous blogs). This is good, but also challenges our science. To be credible and respected we need to ensure that the results and guidance that we provide are based on solid science and evidence. With a successful establishment of IPBES, conservation and biodiversity research will be scrutinized on its accuracy and scientific rigor similar to that of the climate change panel IPCC. A critical question is if our science will stand the test. I wish to think so, but it raises the demand and expectations from us conservation scientists.

Besides these reflections from the presentations at ICCB2011, I have one recommendation. Whenever you visit New Zealand, do not miss the chance to visit one of the greatest success stories of global conservation – the restoration of the island Tiritiri Matangi ( After decades of intensive grazing by sheep it was a more or less barren area, but now after 25 years of restoration it has become a safe haven, a Noah’s Ark, for many of the threatened and endemic species of New Zealand. This is the kind of positive examples we need to show that conservation science indeed can be very effective.

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