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 30 December 2020

Reflections at the end of 2020 - a year of unexpected loss

Personally, I’d like to characterize year 2020 as the year of the unexpected. To exemplify from my country of residence: while the covid-19 was known only from China and Italy, the national epidemiologist predicted that the virus would probably not reach or affect Sweden. What subsequently happened was totally unexpected by the majority of citizens. On the other hand, focusing on what had already been communicated from relevant science, Vineet Menachery et al. (2016 in PNAS) warned that a SARS-like virus seemed poised for human emergence.

An analogy in political responsiveness has for even longer been observed in another subject area: climate change. As The New York Times reported on James Hansen’s testimony to the US Senate on June 23, 1988:
‘Until now, scientists have been cautious about attributing rising global temperatures of recent years to the predicted global warming caused by pollutants in the atmosphere, known as the ''greenhouse effect.'' But today Dr. James E. Hansen of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration told a Congressional committee that it was 99 percent certain that the warming trend was not a natural variation but was caused by a buildup of carbon dioxide and other artificial gases in the atmosphere.’ ‘If Dr. Hansen and other scientists are correct, then humans, by burning of fossil fuels and other activities, have altered the global climate in a manner that will affect life on earth for centuries to come.’

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) both date back to the Rio Summit in 1992. At that summit meeting, 12-yr-old Severn Suzuki held a speech about the importance of conserving nature and biodiversity also for future generations of humans – ‘intergenerational justice’ as she put it 20 years later at the Rio+20 summit in 2012 She then referred to a recently published paper in Nature, likely Barnosky et al. (2012; in which scientists warned that evidence indicated that Earth and humanity are approaching a planetary-scale state shift in the biosphere. That was 8½ years ago. The CBD’s 5th Global Biodiversity Outlook ( is quite clear in that not much and too little has happened to reach the Aichi Targets by 2020 as agreed by the 196 CBD Parties and to prevent further significant biodiversity loss. Similar conclusions were made in March 2020 by the IPCC regarding interventions to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and climate change. - Listen to the scientists! is a clear message from both Severn Suzuki and, more recently, Greta Thunberg. In view of the inertia and lack of implementation of interventions, almost as if the tasks with warm hand are handed over to the young and forthcoming generations, Greta also used a stronger expression: - How dare you?

Many scientists (e.g. Ripple et al. 2017; have already communicated and warned. Even though I probably am a bit more “biodiversity biased” than Johan Rockström (, another fellow Swedish citizen, I also still believe that truly using the best science-based knowledge, science-based education and transformative change, can make it possible for humanity to accomplish the goals and targets of the above conventions.

Concluding the year in this Europe Section blog, in light of the above, I want to highlight and honour the outstanding contributions in science-policy and science-society communication & interfacing by two scientists whom we unexpectedly and sadly lost during 2020: professors Michael E. Soulé – “the Father of Conservation Biology” – and Dame Georgina Mace – “the Mother of the SCB Sections” and in particular of the Europe Section.

Michael Soulé was one of the founders of the Conservation Biology discipline, and died on June 17, 2020. Wonderful obituaries have been written by, for example, by Stuart Pimm “The Soul(é) of Conservation” and by Michael’s former PhD students M. Sanjayan, K.R. Crooks and L.S. Mills in Nature Ecology & Evolution, and also in the “Reflections on Michael Soulé, a visionary for conservation biology” published in the August issue of Conservation Biology In the latter, published on Aug. 11, Georgina Mace was one of the influential conservation scientists contributing reflections. Excerpts are: “He founded our discipline and led and guided it through its formative years. I am proud to be one of the first members of the SCB, to have served on the board and as president, and to have seen the society grow, thrive, and ultimately mature into the establishment organisation that I do not think Michael ever quite came to terms with!” “His influences are everywhere.” “As I stumbled through my early efforts in conservation science, Michael Soulé was my guide.” “… he was always down-to-earth, entertaining, knowledgeable, and very kind as well. I learned much from him. He warned us repeatedly not to compromise in this, our crisis discipline. He will be hugely missed, but his legacy is enormous.”

Less than six weeks later, on Sep. 19, Georgina also passed away. For me, her passing was totally unexpected and for many others too. On Sep. 10, she was co-author of the Leclère et al. (2020) paper published in Nature ( and she retweeted about the Living Planet Report, and on July 16 about her and Ian Bateman’s (Bateman & Mace 2020) paper in Nature Sustainability on natural capital framework for decision making.

Wonderful obituaries have been written by, for example, again by Stuart Pimm (, by Nathalie Pettorelli in Nature (, by Jon Bridle and Kate Jones of the British Ecological Society ( and by Hayley Dunning ( For me personally, as Michael Soulé, she was a leading conservation scientist who bridged the science-policy and science-society gaps. And regarding the SCB, she was President during a mandate period, but at another time had the central role in the formation of Region Sections from year 2000 onwards. Regarding the Europe Section, she took the crucial step of inviting a group of conservation scientists to the Zoological Society of London on Sep. 14, 2001, to a meeting discussing the establishment of the Section. I was one of these invited persons. An interim board was formed based on the participants, and in 2002 the Section was formally established at the SCB’s 16th annual meeting at the University of Kent in Canterbury, with Luigi Boitani as the first Section President. As I recall, Georgina was already too busy and did not want to be nominated for the first Section Board elections.

In several ways, Georgina has contributed outstandingly to conservation science, to the SCB and to the Europe Section, both scientifically and socially. In addition to the Section's founding process, she has actively attended and enjoyed the European Congresses of Conservation Biology (ECCB). Always openminded with great overview, knowledge and input, great synthesis ability, spirit, and mindfulness. Georgina's and Russell Lande’s (1991) reevaluation of the IUCN’s threatened species categories ( is just one example of all her significant and lasting science-policy interfacing and communications, through the IUCN and through the SCB.

Both Michael Soulé’s and Georgina Mace’s accomplishments and legacies are enormous, and they will be hugely missed! They exemplify reasons for why one should - Listen to the scientists! And especially if one means to be a leading international example (Ursula von der Leyen's speech on the EU Green Week 2020) in the CBD work and context, and apply science-based adaptive management in the implementation of the EU Green Deal. Use continuous dialogue and collaborative learning with conservation scientists. The SCB Europe Section looks forward to help and contribute in this science-policy and science-society and -management dialogue! We also look forward to helping the EU Biodiversity Knowledge Centre and to the nextcoming ECCB, Aug. 2022, in Prague as examples of key arenas for such collaborative learning!

On behalf of the SCB Europe Section Board and the Section's Policy Committee, I wish all readers a Happy New 2021!

Per Sjögren-Gulve
Chair of the Europe Section Policy Committee,
and SCB Europe Board Member.

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