BES Annual Meeting 2019

The People and Nature editors have talks throughout the 2019 Annual Meeting. Here’s a quick rundown of what they’re up to.

An art-science approach to engagement with rivers
Stephanie Januchowski-Hartley, Swansea University
Wednesday 11th December, 16.00, Hall 2B
Session: S13: Nature And Humans (Ecology And Society)

Rivers are dynamic and support diverse and changing communities, worldwide. We, as a scientist and artist, have walked the River Tawe in West Wales using a science-art approach to engage with its dynamic nature across seasons, as well as with humans and non-humans along the way. We will present our art-science method, artwork and perspectives from our first three seasons, and how we are using these walks as a way to consider and develop broader art-science programs for different groups to engage with the Tawe and nearby rivers. We’ll share reflections on our collaboration as an art-science practice that draws on multiple disciplinary backgrounds, and discuss how our approach fostered co-creation of knowledge about the River Tawe.


Spatial disconnects in drivers of ecological patterns vary geographically and by type of driver

Laura Graham, University of Southampton
Wednesday 11th December, 16.45, Meeting Room 3B
Session: S20: Macroecology And Biogeography

A key aim of ecology is to understand the drivers of ecological patterns, so that we can accurately predict the effects of global environmental change. However, in many cases, predictors are measured at a finer resolution than the ecological response. Using simulations, we show the circumstances under which it is crucial to capture the fine-scale spatial variation in a driver. We the use this theory to examine when and where such disconnects exist for different ecological, biophysical and socio-economic drivers. We find that these spatial disconnects display a large amount of geographical variation, and that this is hugely dependent on the type of driver. Our results show when and where a multi-scale modelling approach is required, and circumstances under which a unified scale will suffice. This has implications for modelling of global environmental change.


Shifting baselines: evidence, causes and consequences
Kevin Gaston, University of Exeter
Wednesday 11th December, 17.15, The Auditorium
Session: T2: Historical Ecology And The Future Of Restoration Science

That the perception of environmental norms shifts between human generations is widely accepted and much commented on. Nonetheless, whilst anecdotal support is rife, empirical evidence for the occurrence of such shifting baselines remains surprisingly scarce, and challenging to assemble. This is significant because the implications of such shifts are wide ranging and profound, including for issues of environmental or ecological restoration. In this talk I will discuss the available evidence for shifting baselines, the causes and the consequences.

Achieving Transformative Change: Insights from the Recent UN Biodiversity Report
Kai Chan, University of British Columbia
Thursday 12th December, 15.00, Hall 1D
Session: S30: Nature And Humans (Social-Ecological Systems)

Global societies and economies are on an unsustainable trajectory, with up to 1 million species at risk of extinction and crucial societal goals in jeopardy. In the scenario and pathways analysis of the IPBES Global Assessment, we found that merely continuing current strategies is insufficient to reverse negative trends. Sustainable trajectories could only be found in transformative changes across social, economic, and political dimensions yielding a global sustainable economy. Here, I will unpack this ‘transformative change’ into its key components, including five management and legal interventions (levers) and eight crucial points of intervention (leverage points). Although transformative change may sound infeasible, I will illustrate how it might be produced by a strategic series of feasible changes with disproportionately large structural effects. A key component is overcoming opposition from vested interests to realize action in governments and business, which will require sustained and targeted civic action and strategic social innovation.


PLENARY LECTURE – 12 Months in Ecology
Helen Roy, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology
Friday 13th December, 09.00, Auditorium

The Intergovernmental SciencePolicy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) released the much-awaited Global Assessment and the headline message was, perhaps unsurprisingly, stark: Biodiversity – the diversity within species, between species, and of ecosystems – is declining faster than at any time in human history. Despite the bleak headlines, our community has strived towards a world inspired, informed and influenced by ecology. I will highlight some of the innovative studies that are documenting the ways in which our world is changing. The role of human-associated drivers of change is unquestionable. The extent and magnitude of change has led to declarations of a global climate emergency. Perhaps this alone is, strangely, cause for optimism as awareness is increasing and the call for transformative change is being heard. I will present some of the studies that have led to ecological insights underpinning much needed action with benefits for people, policy and ultimately our planet. Biography My research at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology focuses on the use of the large-scale and long-term datasets contributed to by thousands of volunteers and supported through the Biological Records Centre. I specifically focus on the effects of environmental change on insect populations and communities within terrestrial systems, but I am looking forward to presenting highlights from aquatic environments too. I am particularly interested in the dynamics of invasive non-native species and their effects on biodiversity and ecosystems. I am the chair of a COST Action network ALIEN CSI (Citizen Science Investigate) which aims to increase understanding of alien species through citizen science and involves more than 35 countries. I have the pleasure of leading a number of projects on non-native species for Defra and the European Commission on nonnative species. Citizen science provides opportunities for engaging people actively in science. Over the last ten years I have led several major citizen science initiatives involving tens of thousands of people (including UK Ladybird Survey, BBC Breathing Places Parasite Survey and EDF Energy Big Bumblebee Discovery). I have been the volunteer scheme coorganiser for the UK Ladybird Survey for many years and am using the large-scale and long-term Coccinellidae datasets (distribution and abundance) to understand and predict the effects of the arrival of the non-native harlequin ladybird on other ladybirds.

Find out more in Helen’s blog: 12 Months in Ecology


Session: T6: Interdisciplinary Model Integration To Better Understand Biodiversity Change
Simon Kapitza and Laura J Graham
Friday 13th December, 10.00, Auditorium

This session sheds light on the current state of model integration across disciplines at various spatial and temporal scales. The speakers will take stock of available methods – including economic demand, land-use and ecological modelling approaches – and knowledge exchange between these disciplines will be inspired in an interactive panel discussion.


Climate-adapted, traditional or cottage-garden planting? Public perceptions, values and socio-cultural drivers in a designed garden setting.
Helen Hoyle, Centre for Sustainable Planning and Environments UWE Bristol
Friday 13th December, 10.30, Hall 2B
Session: S42: Nature And Humans (Managing Human Environments)

Recent UK research has revealed strong public support for climate-adapted green infrastructure, yet there is a lack of evidence about the values underlying these perceptions. I addressed this by asking 221 people to walk through one of three contrasting areas of planting: climate-adapted; traditional and cottage-garden style, whilst conducting a self-guided questionnaire. Results indicated aesthetic preference for climate-adapted planting over the other two styles. Participants accurately perceived the lowest levels of native biodiversity in the climate-adapted garden. Participants’ values in relation to climate change were related to their educational qualifications, with those lacking any formal qualifications significantly less concerned about climate change than any other group. Participants with a personal interest in the environment had stronger climate change concerns and enjoyed the aesthetics of nature more intensely than other participants. Our findings raise the question as to whether novel approaches to climate change education might be appropriate.


Green Space and Health – How does biodiversity matter?

Aletta Bonn, German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv)

Friday 13th December, 13.00, Hall 2B

Session: S51: Nature And Humans (Experience Of Nature)

Preventable, non-communicable disease, such as mental illness, obesity and cardiovascular disease, account for 77% of the total disease burden in Europe and significantly drive up the cost of health care.  The natural environment is a novel, cost-effective, approach for the prevention of these critical health issues. Here we develop a framework how to link biodiversity and health and investigate a database of 10,000 participants of the Leipzig Research Center for Lifestyle Diseases (LIFE) Adult study, a population-based longitudinal cohort study, and spatial data on green space and street trees species to investigate the role of lifestyle factors and contact with nature, in particular spatial species richness and abundance patterns, as well as noise, in the development on mental health and wellbeing in urban residents.



“Smell flowers!” –  Priming increases meaningful experiences of nature and well-being

Assaf Shwartz, Technion – Israel Institute of Technology

Friday 13th December, 14.15, Hall 2B

Session: S51: Nature And Humans (Experience Of Nature)

Urbanization increasingly disconnects much of the world population from nature, diminishing the health and well-being benefits that nature provides, and ultimately endangering people’s willingness to protect it. Identifying the means to enhance people’s interactions and connection with nature is thus central for mitigating the biodiversity crisis. Here, we explore how priming, a psychological technique whereby exposure to a stimulus influences people’s behaviour, can be used to boost interactions with nature and well-being. We conducted a controlled experiment with 303 participants, who were asked to spend 30 minutes outdoors with nine different stimuli (e.g., smell flowers). We found that four stimuli (touching, smelling and to a lesser extent observing and taking pictures of nature) significantly increased nature interactions and well-being compared to the control (with no stimuli). Our results demonstrate, for the first time, the usefulness of priming as a simple, non-invasive intervention that can significantly improve nature-related behaviours and well-being.