News from Alternet and our partners
BioAgora – First Press Release
BioAgora, biodiversity science at the service of political action
The political action needed to protect the loss of biodiversity can now count on the collaboration of the scientific project BioAgora, in which 22 scientific organisations from 13 European countries, including Alternet, are working together. The project is supervised by the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE). The main objective of BioAgora is to provide specialised research and knowledge on biodiversity
in order to generate new knowledge, process existing knowledge and, as a consequence, inform political decision-making at European level. To this end, one of the main actions to be carried out is to develop a Scientific Service for Biodiversity.
From the National Institute for Agricultural, Food and Environmental Research (INRAE), researcher Juliette Young explains that “the Scientific Service for Biodiversity will be based on a set of guiding principles and an ethical framework that will guarantee its independence, transparency and effective implementation”.
Formulating, implementing and evaluating Europe-wide biodiversity policies is now a challenge addressed by the EU Biodiversity Strategy 2030. To this end, the Strategy envisages scientific research on biodiversity as an essential practice.
Unlike existing science-policy interfaces specialising in biodiversity, the SSBD will be anchored in the Joint Research Centre (JRC), and is intended to serve as the scientific pillar of the EU Knowledge Centre for Biodiversity (KCBD). It aims to support the societal transformation called for by the European Green Deal and the EU Biodiversity Strategy 2030, and will be a stable and sustainable long-term facility bridging knowledge and policy-making.
A common agora
BioAgora takes the idea of a common meeting place where scientific research centres pool knowledge, experience and results. “Biodiversity and natural capital must be integrated into public and business decision-making at all levels,” says Kati Vierikko, project coordinator and SYKE researcher. “Collective actions and pluralistic principles have to be at the heart of biodiversity policy-making efforts, which is why the Biodiversity Science Facility is conceived as a bridge between science, policy and society”.
Representatives of the European Commission and the European partner initiatives (Biodiversa+ and Eklipse) recognise the importance of the project for biodiversity in Europe. The EU Biodiversity Strategy 2030 ensures that research is at the heart of policy making,” said Jessika Giraldi of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Environment.
Why life’s diversity is critical
The concept of biodiversity reflects the number, variety and variability of living organisms, within species, between species and between ecosystems. It also encompasses how this diversity changes from place to place and over time. Biodiversity loss goes hand in hand with the urgency of action to mitigate and adapt to climate change.
In Europe, the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) answers why biodiversity is being lost and what actions can be taken to reverse it, with the aim of connecting the scientific community and political decision-making. This independent body, created in 2012 and linked to the UN, regularly publishes scientific reports prepared by specialists from its 140 member countries. Its working methodology involves authors reviewing multiple published scientific papers rather than producing new ones.
The BioAgora project was officially launched on November 10th in Helsinki, Finland. The launch event was hosted by the project lead partners at SYKE and was attended by Alternet and Eklipse leadership, as well as a great number of Alternet partners from diverse member institutes.
The ultimately successful BioAgora proposal consortium was initially brought together by Alternet and is recognized as a success story of the Alternet Call Exchange and consortium-building mechanism.
BioAgora is “a collaborative European project funded by the Horizon Europe programme. It aims to connect research results on biodiversity to the needs of decision-making in a targeted dialogue between scientists, other knowledge holders and policy actors.”
At the end of the project, the intended BioAgora output will be a “fair and functional” Science Service for Biodiversity in Europe. This service will be used to orchestrate the processes and initiatives of the European-scale science-policy interface.
Best Poster Award – ESP Conference
Congrats to Thea Wübbelmann and the 2021 Summer School alumni research consortium for winning Best Poster Talk at the ESP 2022 conference!
Their poster and research considers transdisciplinary education as a leverage point for transformative change–using the Alternet Summer School as a case study.
The alumni consortium’s research was previously presented at the 2022 Alternet Conference in Ghent. Their first article is currently planned for publication in Biodiversity and Conservation.
Alternet & CESAM SPI Webinar: Challenges in marine conservation and sustainable use
CESAM hosted the fourth installment in the Alternet Science-Policy Interface seminar series on 27 October 2022. This free, open webinar addressed such topics as gaps in knowledge, biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction, and capacity building and technology transfer in marine sciences.
Presentations were be given by three specialist researchers. The webinar was moderated by Dr. Ana Lillebø, a well-established researcher in Coastal Ecosystems in a transdisciplinary context. Ana Lillebø is the Vice-Chair of Alternet Council and member of the 3rd Eklipse Knowledge Coordination Body.
- Dr Ana Hilário is a deep-sea ecologist which research is focused on biodiversity and biogeography of chemosynthetic ecosystems, reproductive ecology of invertebrates, and population connectivity. Ana has contributed to the policy process by authoring and reviewing the UN Assessment of the State of the Marine Environment I and II, and has worked with Portuguese Ministry of the Sea in the design of a national network of MPAs. Currently she co-leads Challenger 150 (www.challenger150.world), a 10-year programme of deep-sea biological science endorsed by UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development.
- Dr Catarina Eira develops research on biological sciences with emphasis on biodiversity conservation and marine biology. Catarina is the head of the Centre for Research and Rehabilitation of Marine Animals, dedicated to supporting the rescue, rehabilitation and release into the wild of marine animals, of the ECOMARE – Laboratory for the Innovation and Sustainability of Marine Biological Resources.
- Dr Cristina Pita is a specialist in fisheries, with a strong focus on small-scale fisheries, sustainable seafood markets, marine resource management, marine governance and coastal cultural heritage. Cristina integrates the pool of national experts for the United Nations World Ocean Assessment (UN-WOAII), covering the socioeconomic aspects of fisheries.
Third workshop of the Lake Fish Telemetry Group: an international and multidisciplinary collaboration pushing forward the field of fish ecology and behaviour
Lake Fish Telemetry Group (LFTG), an initiative that brings together research groups involved in lake fish telemetry in Europe, is now in its fifth year. The initiative was established in 2018 through the project funded by Alternet as an MSR project and implemented by the Biology Centre of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Institute of Hydrobiology. Project participants include top researchers and research groups in the field of fish ecology and fisheries in Europe and globally. The group collaborates on studies based on a joint telemetry dataset of European lakes, shared among the research groups, which comprises thousands of tagged and tracked individuals of various fish species, and hundreds of billions of fish locations, combined with detailed geomorphological and environmental data. Dataset of such size is a unique opportunity for cutting-edge research, based on the use of interdisciplinary methods of data analyses, and for tackling novel research topics within the field of fish ecology, behaviour and management. Furthermore, the group is also jointly working on the development of new concepts, perspectives and reviews of available knowledge.
Lake Fish Telemetry Group has so far organized two workshops, where collaborating research teams were meeting to work on joint research activities. First such workshop was organized in České Budějovice, Czech Republic, in November 2018, and the second was held in Berlin, Germany, in November 2019. The number of researchers and research groups steadily increased over time, and currently involves more than 40 persons from various countries, including Czech Republic, Germany, France, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Belgium, Italy, United Kingdom, Israel and Canada.
In addition to researchers involved in fields of lake fish telemetry and fish ecology and behaviour, the group also brought together experts from other research areas and disciplines to provide an opportunity for interdisciplinary collaboration. For example, both workshops were also attended by research groups from Germany and Israel focused on terrestrial movement ecology and involved in the development of a large-scale ATLAS tracking systems, as well as by a research group from Germany that is working on the development of advanced statistical methods for the analysis of animal movement data. Such new collaborations have already borne fruits by providing a broader perspective to shared research questions, exchange of knowledge and experiences, and future joint collaboration plans, and led to some seminal publications for the field (Lennox et al. 2021; Nathan et al. 2022). Furthermore, the group has also established close collaboration with the European Tracking Network (ETN; www.europeantrackingnetwork.org), with the two networks currently working together on coordination of activities, facilitation of data sharing and joint research initiatives.
The third LFTG workshop is organized this year in May in České Budějovice, Czech Republic. Workshop will be attended by more than 30 participants from various countries, including many top researchers from the field. The workshop is funded by Alternet, with subsidy for this year meeting provided by European Telemetry Network COST Action (https://www.cost.eu/actions/CA18102/). The workshop will be focused on the overview and further planning of ongoing joint research activities, new research ideas and collaboration plans, and exchange of knowledge, ideas, practical know-how and experiences regarding the telemetry systems.
For more information on the initiative please contact Ivan Jaric, project coordinator:
+420 38 777 5855
Follow for news about LFTG activities on Twitter: https://twitter.com/FishTelGroup
Lake Fish Telemetry Group is supported by the project “Multi-Lake Research of Fish Ecology and Management using High-Resolution 3D Telemetry Systems”, funded by Alternet.
See our publications:
- Nathan, R., Monk, C.T., Arlinghaus, R., Adam, T., Alós, J., Assaf, M., Baktoft, H., Beardsworth, C.E., Bertram, M.G., Bijleveld, A.I., Brodin, T., Brooks, J.L., Campos-Candela, A., Cooke, S.J., Gjelland, K.Ø., Gupte, P.R., Harel, R., Hellström, G., Jeltsch, F., Killen, S.S., Klefoth, T., Langrock, R., Lennox, R.J., Lourie, E., Madden, J.R., Orchan, Y., Pauwels, I.S., Říha, M., Roeleke, M., Schlägel, U., Shohami, D., Signer, J., Toledo, S., Vilk, O., Westrelin, S., Whiteside, M.A. and Jarić, I. (2022). Big-data approaches lead to an increased understanding of the ecology of animal movement. Science 375 (6582), eabg1780.
- Lennox, R.J., Westrelin, S., Souza, A.T., Šmejkal, M., Říha, M., Prchalová, M., Nathan, R., Koeck, B., Killen, S., Jarić, I., Gjelland, K., Hollins, J., Hellstrom, G., Hansen, H., Cooke, S.J., Boukal, D., Brooks, J.L., Brodin, T., Baktoft, H., Adam, T. and Arlinghaus, R. (2021). A role for lakes in revealing the nature of animal movement using high dimensional telemetry systems. Movement Ecology 9, 40.
MSR Science Publication: Big-data brings revolution to movement ecology
Movement is a basic characteristic of all life, and an omnipresent feature in nature. All organisms are able to move, either actively or passively, and their movement drives natural processes, survival and interactions among species, including those with humans, as well as susceptibility to anthropogenic impacts. Interactions of animal movement with these factors are the main subject of the field of movement ecology – in other words, movement ecology is dealing with how, when and why an animal is moving, and with consequences of that movement for animal itself and its environment. It can provide key insights in the fields of ecology, evolution, behavioral sciences, as well as for effective biodiversity management and conservation.
For decades the movement ecology suffered for lack of data, as for many animals observing their movement is extremely challenging. However, recent development of novel technologies and data processing tools have resulted in a rapid development of the field of movement ecology. In a new study published recently in the journal Science, a large international group, with 37 authors from 29 institutions and 12 countries, explored the ongoing big-data revolution in movement ecology, and novel insights it is providing into the ecology of life on the move.
The study analyses the advances in the movement ecology field, including the use of different modern tracking technologies such as reverse-GPS technologies, GPS-based systems, and radar and computer vision. These state-of-the-art technologies provide nowadays high-resolution spatiotemporal movement of tracked individuals for long periods of time (i.e., resolution of their locations can be in meters or even centimetres, several times per minute for many months or years). Such precise data can be obtained from both terrestrial and aquatic animals, and they can precisely reveal their life as never before. Big movement data obtained through these technologies can for example help associate inter-individual variation in movement with individual behavior, traits, cognition and physiology, reveal fine-scale interactions, and improve evidence-based wildlife management.
High-throughput movement ecology is opening new research frontiers in biology and ecology. This development also entails some challenges of big data, related to high computational load, data management and processing, and the need for advanced statistical analyses. The study also provides recommendations for key measures to ensure future progress in the field, which include combining observational with experimental movement ecology, combining low- and high-rate sampling, improving interoperability between technologies, standardizing and sharing data, and promoting multidisciplinary international collaboration.
The study was led by Ran Nathan from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and it was initiated at the international workshop organized in 2018 in České Budějovice, Czech Republic, funded through the Alternet Multi-Site Research (MSR) initiative and implemented by the Biology Centre of the Czech Academy of Sciences. The workshop also led to the establishment of the Lake Fish Telemetry Group (LFTG), an international network and initiative that brings together research groups involved in lake fish telemetry in Europe to conduct joint multi-lake research activities using combined fish telemetry datasets. Project participants include top researchers and research groups in the field of fish ecology and fisheries in Europe and globally.
“The group collaborates on studies based on a joint telemetry dataset of European lakes, shared among the research groups, which comprises thousands of tagged and tracked individuals of various fish species, and hundreds of billions of fish detections, combined with detailed geomorphological and environmental data”, says Ivan Jarić, coordinator of the Group and the project, and one of the authors of the study. “We also brought together experts from other research areas and disciplines, including research groups focused on terrestrial movement ecology and experts on advanced statistical methods for the analysis of animal movement data. Our aim was to provide an opportunity for interdisciplinary collaboration, to provide a broader perspective to shared research questions, initiate joint studies, exchange of knowledge and experiences, and future joint collaboration plans”.
The group is now organizing another international workshop, which will be held this year at the Biology Centre in České Budějovice.
For more detailed information, check out the article published in Science:
Nathan, R., Monk, C.T., Arlinghaus, R., Adam, T., Alós, J., Assaf, M., Baktoft, H., Beardsworth, C.E., Bertram, M.G., Bijleveld, A.I., Brodin, T., Brooks, J.L., Campos-Candela, A., Cooke, S.J., Gjelland, K.Ø., Gupte, P.R., Harel, R., Hellström, G., Jeltsch, F., Killen, S.S., Klefoth, T., Langrock, R., Lennox, R.J., Lourie, E., Madden, J.R., Orchan, Y., Pauwels, I.S., Říha, M., Roeleke, M., Schlägel, U., Shohami, D., Signer, J., Toledo, S., Vilk, O., Westrelin, S., Whiteside, M.A. and Jarić, I. (2022). Big-data approaches enable increased understanding of animal movement ecology. Science doi: 10.1126/science.abg1780 (in press)
The Alternet Researcher’s Guide to Infrastructures
Since its start, Alternet has been committed to developing the infrastructure for biodiversity and ecosystem research in Europe. We have aided the foundation and support of key research infrastructures.
The research infrastructures of Alternet partner institutes and the work they support are highlighted in an exclusive new video. Check it out!
Science Policy Seminar: Effective science-policy interaction needs both clear messages and a continuous dialogue
Biodiversity conservation and ecosystem sustainability can be fostered through interdisciplinary and cross-sectoral collaboration, addressing system-level challenges.
Biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation pose an increasing threat for human wellbeing and resilience of our societies. We know this because science has shown us the trends, the cascading impacts and the causal chains. Science has also produced the basis and concrete means for policy to halt biodiversity loss and make ecosystems more sustainable. This cooperation between science and policy has resulted in protected area network implementation, urban green infrastructure plans, management guidelines and even nature therapy prescriptions. In this sense, there is a functioning connection between science and policy.
We took a deeper look into science-policy interfaces and the ways in which science-policy can become more effective and adaptive in a webinar hosted by the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE) and Alternet on 3 February 2022.
- We asked: how can we make science-policy interfaces even more effective? How can they respond to the ever-increasing global sustainability challenges? How does biodiversity conservation connect to other areas in which science and policy are closely connected?
Science-policy needs to be adaptive
Biodiversity loss is a system-level challenge, transcending sectors and disciplines – and touching people. “A quarter of all global deaths are connected to environmental degradation and pollution”, said one of the panellists of the event, Babette Simon, Associate Professor at the Faculty of Health of the University of Paris and member of the Expert Advisory Group One Sustainable Health Forum. Making the connection between ecosystem health and human health is one important challenge for science-policy communities. In this sense, the different policies need to be brought into dialogue.
The science-policy interface supporting biodiversity conservation faces some system-boundaries as rather rigid silos–or even frontiers–in which different paradigms clash; explained another featured panellist, Georg Winkel, Professor in a Forest and Nature Conservation Policy Group at Wageningen University. He exemplified this with his area, forests, which host much biodiversity. They play a key role for many policy areas: economy, trade, energy and climate, and are therefore approached with different expectations, different emphases, and different scientific disciplinary approaches.
- Interdisciplinary work is a good entry-point for recognising and bridging different paradigms.
Science-policy is about communicating
To move from talking to action, science-policy interfaces must be more transformative. This requires that scientists speak truth to power about urgent challenges and also about their consequences in regards to justice–and to engage those whom the policy addresses, said panellist Niki Frantzeskaki, who has experience in science-policy in an urban space. Scientists should take an active role in communicating results and translating knowledge to policy processes, in a language that is meaningful to participants in these processes. They can also enforce more listening into processes.
When facilitating science-policy interfaces and dialogue, it is important that scientists acknowledge and understand the messiness of policy processes, said Eeva Furman, a Keynote speaker of the Webinar, Director of the Environmental Policy Centre at SYKE. Scientists can, in addition to sharing and boldly communicating, derive new questions from these processes. Policy can improve through this kind of dialogue especially when also the unknowns and taboos are brought up. Ideally, such a transformative co-learning process results in both an improved evidence-base and novel ideas.
Scientists can advocate specific messages and actions, but it is paramount that they are transparent and can distinguish their different roles and functions. Likewise, when scientists are motivated by their emotional connection to nature, they can mobilise others. The strength in science is that the connection between emotions, knowledge and action can be made explicit. The reason why scientists have a central role in policy processes is exactly this ability to position themselves and different arguments.
How do we combine dialogue and listening with the often-repeated call for uniform messages – including in this webinar? asked the chair of the event, Eeva Primmer, Research Director at SYKE and Alternet Council member.
- Urgent challenges can be communicated and repeated in different forums, including reports and dialogues. This repetition can unify the message from science; yet maintaining sensitivity to plural views and observations as well as new signals is crucial.
Science-policy interfaces are like an ecosystem
The Alternet webinar also introduced to the over 120 participants the broad range of science-policy activities, forums and processes in Europe, or the science-policy-landscape, as Ben Delbaere, an Alternet Council member portrayed it. The numerous Alternet science-policy activities were presented by Marie Vandewalle, an Alternet Management Board member.
- Science-policy interfaces form an ecosystem in which encounters and communication are equally important as the feeding of evidence. Bringing scientists, policy actors, societal actors and practitioners together requires processes that have directionality and seek action.
This webinar, opened by Alternet Council Chair Maurice Hoffmann, chaired by Eeva Primmer and closed by Juliette Young, Senior Researcher from INRAE, was the first in a series of Alternet science-policy webinars. It was organised by Eeva Primmer, Juliette Young and Riikka Paloniemi, and supported by Tyler Kulfan from the Alternet Secretariat as well as Suvi Staudinger, Aino Laine and Suvi Rummukainen from SYKE.
Eklipse: Call for Knowledge – Biodiversity and Pandemics
Topic of Call: Developing a strategic research agenda on Biodiversity and pandemics, aligned with relevant sectoral policy agendas.
Description: Eklipse invites scientists, policy makers, practitioners and other societal actors to share their knowledge on the topics. The main aim of this Call for Knowledge is to avoid duplication of on-going efforts and to ensure the outputs are jointly and timely developed.
How to contribute: Please contribute your comments and knowledge/initiatives/references through social media using the hashtag #BiodiversityPandemics, or through the Eklipse Survey, or by sending us an email.
Contribute before 14th January 2022
Alternet Summer School 2021: Summer in Fall
“The Alternet summer school started in Peyresq in 2006 and we’re now on to our 15th Summer School. We’ve had students from all over Europe and all over the world–from Australia to the United States, Chile to China.” –Allan Watt, Alternet Summer School convener
After two years without an Alternet Summer School following last year’s cancellation, the 2021 Alternet Summer School–held this year in Autumn–was a vibrant and dynamic success.
Like each one before it, the 2021 Summer School was held in the remote and rustic village of Peyresq in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence region of France. This year’s programme included presentations by scientists from different disciplinary backgrounds, student poster presentations, facilitated discussions, a field study trip to the upper Verdon area, a hike to meet with local shepherds, and a student working group project entitled OVERTURE: The socio-ecological system in the Upper VERdon region now and in the fuTURE.“One thing I’ll take away from the summer school and really cherish is the great collaboration, dynamism, and synergy that we’ve had in the group here–working in such a beautiful and isolated environment.” –Christine Frison, 2021 student – UC Louvain
The Summer School conveners included:
- Allan D. Watt, NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, UK
- Marie Vandewalle, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ, Germany
- Uta Fritsch, EURAC-European Academy, Italy
- Nicolas Dendoncker, University of Namur, Belgium
- Brooke Wilkerson, CET, University of Bergen, Norway
Summer School tutors included:
- Emilie Crouzat
- Carla Washbourne
- Martin Wildenberg
With a bit of luck, next year’s Summer School will be held during the typical August timeframe–but the 2021 Summer School in Fall will be remembered as a uniquely serendipitous experience. The Alternet team would like to extend a big thanks to the tireless team that made it possible–including the Peyresq Foundation, the hosts and cooks in Peyresq, conveners, speakers, tutors, administrators, and an absolutely exceptional group of students.
SER Declaration: Scientists in Support for an Ambitious EU Nature Restoration Law
At its most recent conference, the Society for Ecological Restoration-Europe adopted a statement containing 12 concrete policy recommendations, in line with the EU’s 2030 Biodiversity Strategy: The ‘Scientists in Support of an Ambitious EU Law for Nature Restoration’ (Scientists in Support for an Ambitious EU Nature Restoration Law).
After consultation of all our members, we unanimously decided that Alternet as an Association of scientific institutes strongly and wholeheartedly supports the SER-declaration. It fully coincides with the basic aims of our association.
The full text is available on the SER website. As a researcher, you can also sign this statement as an individual.
By the end of October 2021, the declaration with all signatures will be handed over to European policymakers.
AHIA Publication & Policy Brief: Sustainable Management of Rivers in the Anthropocene
A new scientific article, a policy brief and a video have been published as part of the 2019-2020 Alternet High Impact Actions (AHIA) project entitled “From meta-system theory to the sustainable, adaptive management of rivers in the Anthropocene.” The article has been published in the prestigious journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.
This innovative AHIA project is led by Thibault Datry of INRAE, while the first author of the article is researcher Núria Cid Puey. The publication features contributions from partners at SYKE, MTA-OK, and IGB. It assesses spatial flows of organisms, material, and energy across river networks and the need for integration of these flows into river management practices in order to improve their efficiency.
- The scientific article has been published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.
- The authors have also produced a policy brief.
- A dissemination video has been created about this scientific work.
- Rivers are hotspots of biodiversity and provide essential ecosystem functions and services; however, they are heavily threatened globally notably due to increased fragmentation.
- Our understanding on how rivers are organized across spatial scales has progressed considerably over the past decades: the spatial flows of organisms, material and energy at the river-network scale are today recognised as vital for preserving population, community and ecosystem dynamics.
- However, most river conservation, restoration and biomonitoring practices and legislations focus on local-scale measures and actions.
- The authors suggest a range of metrics and assessment approaches that incorporate river network processes to guide the management of river networks in the Anthropocene
Alternet Newsletter – Autumn 2021 Edition
The Autumn 2021 edition of the Alternet Newsletter has been released! Catch up on the activities of our network partner institutes and researchers. Read it here.
News from Featured Partners
This edition of the Alternet newsletter features news from the following partners:
- CREAF, IGB, ILE-SAS, NINA, Oppla, and SLU
It also features introductions to our four newest partners: Archipelagos, ERIN, Oppla, and NIVA.
Catalogue of Ecosystem Services of Slovakia
Slovakia is a small country with much diversified landscape, which also determines the diversity of ecosystems and their ecosystem services. However, Slovakia does not use all ecosystem services efficiently. Mostly the dominant factor in their utilisation is the economic aspect (production and sale of wood, agricultural production and its sales) and so the utilisation of production ecosystem services is often preferred, especially at the expense of regulatory and protection services.
In order to ensure the rational use of ecosystem services, an initiative was created to map the ecosystems that occur in Slovakia and to evaluate the services that the ecosystems provide. The results were published in the form of the Catalogue of Ecosystem Services of Slovakia, which provides an assessment of 18 individual ES, which are divided into three main groups – provisioning, regulatory/supporting and cultural ES.
Individual services were evaluated on the basis of capacity, demand and flow, which resulted in the proposal of measures for the efficient use of individual ecosystem services. For each of ES, a brief theoretical and methodological overview is given in Catalogue, followed by spatial assessment based on own original methodology and dataset of 40 map layers. Besides, an evaluation of main ES groups (production, regulatory and supportive, cultural) and overall ES assessment is realized.
The complexity of the Catalogue guarantees its usefulness – not only as the knowledge base for the territory of Slovakia but also as the methodological tool for worldwide researchers.
Embedding Transformative Change in Global Biodiversity Governance
“Achieving the ambitions of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework (GBF) requires transformative change. Embedding six key principles at the heart of the GBF provides the concrete means to trigger transformative action for all levels of government and across the whole of society.”
The expertise on #30 for the Post-2020 Biodiversity Framework has been released. This overview report on Embedding Transformative Change in Global Biodiversity Governance was authored by Jiska van Dijk (NINA, Alternet Management Board Chair), Marcel Kok (PBL), and Harriet Bulkeley (Utrecht Univ. and Durham Univ.).
PBL contribution to the CBD post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework
As negotiations continue on biodiversity action for the next decade, now is the critical moment to seize the opportunity for embedding a landscape perspective throughout the new UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF). While nature and biodiversity are being lost worldwide, and the capacity of ecosystems to provide vital contributions to people is deteriorating, there is a clear need for transformative change to move away from business-as-usual pathways in managed landscapes globally. A key for unlocking transformative change towards nature-inclusive development that involves whole of society is provided by landscape governance arrangements, ongoing landscape initiatives and connected international networks.
Creating co-benefits between SDGs, climate, restoration and biodiversity ambitions
The need for more integrated and inclusive management of natural resources in the post-2020 GBF, also resonates with the Sustainable Development Goals, the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration and ambitions to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Nature is considered part of the solution, reflected by an increasing global interest in restoration and nature-based solutions (NBS). This makes a landscape perspective even more crucial to support the effective and equitable realisation of much-needed co-benefits.
Many landscape governance initiatives are leading the way; the CBD can benefit
The many emerging landscape initiatives provide tangible examples of how multiple landscape values can be combined to achieve better outcomes for people and nature. Many landscape initiatives are connected to international networks and platforms facilitating a better connection between global commitment and local action, sharing of knowledge and experiences. International biodiversity policies and the CBD can benefit from these efforts. These networks could also increase their attention for operating in multi-level and multi-actor governance processes that are needed to align objectives at various levels of governance.
The way forward for the Global Biodiversity Framework; embedding a landscape perspective
There are several opportunities for embedding a landscape perspective in the post-2020 GBF. In the CBD, spatial planning and landscape governance are so far mainly seen as a means of implementation and part of a ‘whole of government’ approach. Due to this lack of attention, the post-2020 GBF misses out on the potential of bottom-up landscape governance and initiatives to support a ‘whole of society’ approach and to develop pathways to move to more bottom-up and participatory spatial planning and more inclusive ways towards achieving biodiversity goals and ensuring nature’s contributions to people.
A Global Biodiversity Framework that triggers landscape action
A key element that is clearly mentioned in the theory of change of the GBF is that the implementation will be done in partnership with many organisations, on global, national and local levels. Effective landscape governance does entail the participation and cooperation of stakeholders at the local level of policy implementation. This includes indigenous peoples and local communities and directly speaks to the GBF targets of ensuring equity, protection of associated traditional knowledge and rights over resources as well as to the GBF implementation support mechanisms and enabling conditions. The GBF could recognise that also the realisation of many of the other targets will rely largely on landscape-level action and better spatial planning
Building on landscape ambition as part of the Action Agenda for Nature and People
Integrating a landscape perspective in the theory of change and throughout the GBF will help to raise the level of ambition of landscape-level action for nature and people. To facilitate this a number of umbrella organisations with global outreach have become important actors in increasing the momentum for landscape thinking and acting. The GBF could benefit greatly from their work and the Action Agenda for Nature and People would provide an opportunity for doing so. Stronger involvement, recognition and commitments by landscape initiatives and their network organisations would add value to this process and contribute to a feasible and impactful way forward.
Additionally, be sure to take a look at PBL’s innovative new platform on nature-based solutions and landscape restoration!
MSR Publication in Movement Ecology
“Movement ecology is increasingly relying on experimental approaches and hypothesis testing to reveal how, when, where, why, and which animals move. Movement of megafauna is inherently interesting but many of the fundamental questions of movement ecology can be efficiently tested in study systems with high degrees of control. Lakes can be seen as microcosms for studying ecological processes and the use of high-resolution positioning systems to triangulate exact coordinates of fish, along with sensors that relay information about depth, temperature, acceleration, predation, and more, can be used to answer some of movement ecology’s most pressing questions.”
SYKE: Forest management and sustainability need European level collaboration
In this newly published blog from SYKE, Eeva Primmer and Mikael Hilden answer common questions about the Forest Strategy from a Finnish perspective.
“The EU Forest Strategy has been the topic at Finnish family gatherings, summer events and in the social media during the peak of our holiday season. The debates about the Forest Strategy have portrayed a fierce disagreement over goals and means. The arguments have been about nature, climate, wood and pulp, and also the autonomy of forest owners.
Finland and Finnish stakeholders have been vocal in efforts to influence formulations in the new Forest Strategy, particularly in the last moments before it became public. Has Finland taken leadership, or has the lobbying resulted in fragmentation? Is Finland unique, as many Finnish forestry stakeholders have claimed? In considering Finland’s role, it is fruitful to consider the role of the EU forest strategy: how does it affect forest management, and how is it positioned in the forest policy landscape of the EU and member states?
An intense debate is welcome as the underlying questions are important, but the very polarized tones that we have heard have not invited a search for Finland’s strengths or opportunities to advance sustainability with forests and their management. Here we consider Finland’s uniqueness, analyse the role of the Forest Strategy and shed light on common claims about the strategy.”
Four New Institutes Join Alternet
Alternet is proud to welcome four new partner institutes and two new countries into its consortium: Archipelagos (Greece), ERIN (Luxembourg), Oppla (Netherlands), and NIVA (Norway).
Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation is a Greek non-profit, non-governmental organization combining multidisciplinary scientific research and efficient conservation work with the active participation of local communities since 1998.
This cooperation creates a strategic foundation that enables and strengthens the activities of Archipelagos at the local, national and European level, allowing us to protect aquatic and terrestrial life against ever-increasing human factors. The mission of Archipelagos is to defend and protect the biodiversity of the Northeastern Mediterranean, with an emphasis on the Greek seas and islands, through a combination of applied scientific research, education, conservation actions and community engagement.
The Environmental Research and Innovation (ERIN) department of the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST) comprises more than 200 life, environmental and IT scientists and engineers across three research units. These units bring together the necessary interdisciplinary knowledge and skills to tackle the major environmental challenges our society is facing today, including climate change mitigation, ecosystem resilience, sustainable energy systems, efficient use of renewable resources, and environmental pollution prevention and control.
The Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST) is a mission-driven Research and Technology Organisation (RTO) active in the fields of materials, environment and IT. LIST develops competitive and market-oriented product/service prototypes for public and private stakeholders, and works across the entire innovation chain: fundamental and applied research, incubation, transfer of technologies. By transforming scientific knowledge into technologies, smart data and tools, LIST empowers citizens in their choices, public authorities in their decisions and businesses in their strategies.
Oppla is an open platform for sharing the latest thinking and resources on natural capital, ecosystem services, nature-based solutions and related approaches. It is free to join and free to use.
Oppla is also a community of over 4000 members comprising businesses, policymakers, scientists and researchers, as well as representatives from government and civil society. Features of Oppla include a ‘knowledge marketplace’, a database of case studies, a weekly newsletter and access to a growing number of projects hosted by the platform. Oppla is managed by an independent, non-profit SME with partners in the Netherlands, Estonia and UK. Its mission is to “assist people in making nature work for the benefit of humankind.”
The Norwegian Institute for Water Research (NIVA) is Norway’s leading institute for fundamental and applied research on marine and freshwaters. The institute’s research comprises a wide array of environmental, climatic and resource-related fields. NIVA’s world-class expertise is multidisciplinary with a broad scientific scope. We combine research, monitoring, evaluation, problem-solving and advisory services at international, national and local levels.
NIVAs broad scope of scientific competence, research expertise and long-term environmental data series are important to Norwegian business and industry, public administration on municipal, regional and national levels. NIVA has extensive experience in international research cooperation with international assignments accounting for about 20% of our turnover.
Registration Open: Alternet Summer School 2021
The 2021 Summer School will take place in Peyresq 6-16th October 2021, subject to national COVID regulations on travel. Open to graduate and postgraduate scientists (as well as professionals in related fields), the Alternet Summer School provides an innovative atmosphere for considering and resolving the sustainability challenges that society is currently facing.
Peyresq, a picturesque village in the Haute-de-Provence Alpes, provides an unparalleled setting for dynamic discussions.
Students must either show proof of vaccination to COVID-19 or a recent negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test taken no more than 24-36 hours prior to arrival. Further details on testing and COVID mitigation measures will be provided prior to the dates of the summer school. If the COVID situation prevents the school from taking place, a short online school will be organised, and any students accepted for the 2021 summer school will be eligible for the 2022 summer school.
Learn more on the Summer School webpage.
How to Apply
To apply for this year’s Summer School, please complete the online application form. At the end of the application period, the conveners will assess all applications and contact each applicant with their decision.
For all enquiries concerning the Summer School, please contact:
Davide Geneletti – Post COVID-19 City Challenge and Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Research Awards
DICAM partner Prof Davide Geneletti has received a winning prize in The Post COVID-19 City Challenge with a proposal for Renaturing marginal public spaces for people and ecosystems.
Davide Geneletti has also been named recipient of the Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Research Award by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in recognition of his outstanding accomplishments in research in the field of environmental planning.
The Awards are given annually to internationally renowned academics from outside Germany. Nominations for the Award may be initiated by established researchers at research institutions in Germany. The independent body that selects the award winners is comprised of around 22 academics of all disciplines. The main selection criteria include:
– An excellent research record with scientific achievements that have already influenced the
– Reasonable prospects for producing outstanding achievements with an impact that extends
beyond the nominee’s immediate field of work
Further info on the award can be found here.
Alternet Newsletter – Spring 2021 Edition
The Spring 2021 edition of the Alternet Newsletter has been released! Catch up on the activities of our network partner institutes and researchers. Read it here.
News from Featured Partners
This edition of the newly revived Alternet newsletter features news from the following partners:
- CESAM, CREAF, Delbaere Consulting, DICAM, IAES, IGB, Hutton, NINA, ILE-SAS, SLU, and UFZ
NINA Report: Seabirds consume higher proportions of fish stocks when prey abundance is low
A new study from NINA signals the need for fisheries management to account for ecosystem constraints when setting catch limits in periods of low forage fish biomass.
Using data from five different marine ecosystems, researchers have tested the hypothesis of predator‐pit dynamics for forage fish. By examining the consumption of fish by seabirds and the effect of such predation on fish population dynamics, they found that seabird-induced mortality of forage fish varies with fish abundance.
Data from five countries and three continents
Seabirds are widely distributed and abundant forage fish predators on all continental shelf ecosystems around the world, and they can have significant local impacts on forage fish species often also targeted by commercial fisheries. An international group of researchers has examined to what degree natural mortality rates of forage fish may be influenced by seabirds. Compiling data on seabird numbers, diets, energetic needs and prey energy content and abundance, they investigated top‐down processes exerted by seabirds on forage fish stocks in five contrasting marine ecosystems off Norway, South Africa, Peru, Sweden and Scotland.
Recommended threshold for prey biomass
Results from the study showed that the proportion of a fish stock consumed by seabirds was generally low, but increased sharply at low levels of prey abundance. Predation by seabirds became a source of important additional pressure on prey stocks when prey biomass decreased below 15–18% of its maximum recorded value. For the sake of the forage fish themselves, the authors therefore suggest that this threshold should not be exceeded to avoid extra cautious management of fisheries. With regard to food requirements for seabirds, an earlier study demonstrated that seabird breeding success was heavily impacted already when prey stocks fell below 33% of their long-term maximum biomass.
Appeal to fisheries management
Despite exceptionally high rates of predation on some occasions, prey entrapment due to seabirds alone was not found in any of the five ecosystems investigated. The study clarifies predator-prey functional relationships between forage fish and seabirds and underlines the importance for fisheries management to account for ecosystem constraints when setting catch limits in periods of low forage fish biomass.
Contact: Tycho Anker-Nilssen
In Memoriam: Leon Braat
We remember Leon Braat (Alterra/WENR), who was an integral member of the Alternet leadership and community. Leon passed away on 25 March 2021.
Leon was a friend, colleague, and driver of the Alternet network; he entered the Management Board in 2009 and worked alongside Alternet Coordinator Jiska van Dijk and MB Chair Daniel Terrasson. Following Daniel’s retirement, Leon assumed the position of MB Chair–a position he held until his own retirement. He worked closely alongside Jiska, Ben Delbaere on projects including OpeneNESS and MAES, and greatly contributed to the Alternet Summer School prior to his retirement.
Leon was one of the founding fathers of the Ecosystem Services concept and the TEEB process. He is remembered by MB Chair Jiska van Dijk and Council Chair Maurice Hoffmann for their long and passionate shared discussions, and will be greatly missed by the entire Alternet community. Those who knew Leon are encouraged to share memories on his Memorial Kudoboard.
New Programme Of Undergraduate Summer Grants At CREAF
This summer and within the Severo Ochoa program, our partners at CREAF will offer to 4 undergraduate students the possibility of a two-month stay as an ecology researcher through the 1st CREAF Summer Fellowship Programme. It’s aim is to become the first step of undergraduate student’s research career.
CREAF is seeking 4 talented undergraduate students willing to be involved as a new generation of ecologists. Spend two months (between May and October 2021) with our researchers, doing field work, lab work, travelling, learning about databases. This experience will be a turning point in your studies, we want to inspire you as a future scientist in ecology.
Erasmus Mundus Master Course: Applied Ecohydrology
ERCE along with the UNESCO Chair in Ecohydrology and Applied Ecology (Lodz University) and the University of ALGARVE is launching a new master course for year 2021-2022. Alternet students are encouraged to apply!
With the support of the Ecohydrology programme of UNESCO IHP, an Erasmus Mundus Master course in Applied Ecohydrology, selected by the European Union for funding, will start in October 2021.
The Master course is coordinated by the UNESCO Chair in Ecohydrology: water for ecosystems and societies, of the University of Algarve, Faro, Portugal, in consortium with the University of Lodz and the European Regional Centre for Ecohydrology (ERCE – under the auspices of UNESCO) in Poland, the Technische Hochschule Lübeck (THL), Germany, and the University of Antwerp, Belgium.
The European Union fully supports all costs, including the travels, insurance, university fees, installation and also provides a monthly allowance of 1000 euros for the 24 month of the duration of the course for selected candidates from the entire world.
The 2018-19 AHIA project has yielded two new publications. Led by partners at SLU, this project is entitled “Land-sparing vs. land-sharing for functional green infrastructure that sustains biodiversity and ecosystem services? – European landscape approach initiatives provide regionally adapted solutions.” This project was led by Per Angelstam of SLU and featured additional Alternet partners from ILE-SAS and SYKE.
Read the publications from this high-impact project:
- Ecology and Society 26(1):11
Meeting places and social capital supporting rural landscape stewardship: A Pan-European horizon scanning
- Per Angelstam, SLU
Participating Alternet partners
- SLU, ILE-SAS, SYKE
New Partner: DICAM
The Department of Civil, Environmental and Mechanical Engineering (DICAM) of the University of Trento has joined Alternet as its newest partner. DICAM advances knowledge and educates students in the science and technology that best serve the protection of the environment and the sustainable use of natural resources.
The membership to Alternet is coordinated by the Planning for Ecosystem Services Lab (PLANES). The scientific mission of PLANES is to promote applied research about the production and use of ecosystem services knowledge to improve real-life decisions, and particularly to support urban and spatial planning processes, land-use policies, environmental assessments (EIA and SEA), and urban design.
Current areas of research include nature-based solutions to promote health and environmental protection in cities; performance-based approaches in urban planning to enhance ecosystem services supply and benefits; ecosystem-based urban climate adaptation; and equity issues associated to the fruition of ecosystem services in urban areas.
We’re excited to have DICAM on board and to have Italian representation in Alternet!
December 1st marked the handing over of the Eklipse mechanism over to the broader community, under Alternet management–and, thus, the launch of the official joining of Alternet and Eklipse. The week of 7-11 December was designated as a special launch event to mark this transition.
In addition to the promotion of the new Eklipse mechanism and partnership with Alternet, this week also saw the launch of both the new Alternet and Eklipse websites, new branding for both organisations, and the annual Alternet Council meeting, which was held virtually and hosted by CESAM.
“Together for better biodiversity policy, together for optimal science support.” –Maurice Hoffmann, Chair of Alternet Council, director of INBO
IGB Publication – 14 key recommendations for the protection of freshwater biodiversity beyond 2020
The year 2020 marks the end of the UN Decade of Biodiversity. However, a UN report published in September shows that none of the 20 Aichi-Biodiversity Targets, agreed in 2010, have been achieved in the last ten years. Worldwide, the conservation of biodiversity therefore remains a major challenge –particularly for freshwater ecosystems which, so far, are insufficiently accounted for in political processes and regulations.
Recognizing the perilous state of freshwater biodiversity, an international research team led by the Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB), has now issued 14 recommendations for political follow-up agreements on the protection of biological diversity.
This study was initiated at the 2019 ALTER-Net and Eklipse conference in Ghent, which considered the European Biodiversity Strategy’s post-2020 future and the role that research would play in contributing to this strategy and defining its goals. The conference featured an extended freshwater session; this present paper represents the direct and primary outcome of that session.
Freshwater is an essential resource for humans as well as nature. However, living organisms in rivers, lakes and wetlands are exposed to many human-made pressures. Climate change, overexploitation, changes and loss of habitats, pollution and the threat of invasive species are leading to a dramatic wildlife declines and losses. The 14 new recommendations for the global protection of freshwater biodiversity are based on current research knowledge and practical experience from European policy and administration.
These recommendations come at a time when two important international frameworks on biodiversity are being prepared: the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the European Union (EU) Biodiversity Strategy.
“This is an important moment to bring scientific knowledge into the process. Political strategies and decisions must emphasize the unique ecology of freshwater life and the many threats to it. In previous regulations, the protection of freshwaters has often been treated in an inferior manner. Inland waters have been included within land regulations – because they are not marine – or with seas and oceans – because they are aquatic. It is time that freshwater biodiversity is recognized in its own right – the latest Living Planet Report shows that the loss of freshwater populations is the most dramatic – a loss of 84 percent between 1970 and 2016”; stresses IGB researcher Sonja Jähnig, who lead the study.
Recognising inland waters as a true ecological “third realm”
In their very first recommendation, therefore, the authors argue that freshwaters be considered as a separate, ecological “third realm”; alongside land and sea, with special management requirements in future biodiversity agreements. For example, specific targets for freshwater ecosystems could be included in the existing Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 6 (Clean water and sanitation), 13 (Climate action), 14 (Life below water) and 15 (Life on land).
The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), adopted in 1993, also combines inland waters with terrestrial areas. The CBD Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 included 20 Aichi biodiversity targets. The most important targets related to freshwater ecosystems include: target 5 (Habitat loss halved or reduced), target 8 (Pollution reduced); target 9 (Invasive alien species prevented and controlled); target 11 (Protected areas increased and improved), target 12 (Extinction prevented).
Appropriate freshwater habitat targets should also be set within existing networks of protected areas, such as the European Natura 2000 network, which aims to protect core breeding and resting sites for rare and threatened species, and some rare natural habitat types.
Furthermore, many important freshwater habitats are overlooked, such as urban and agricultural water bodies. The separate designation of heavily modified water bodies (HMWBs) in the European Water Framework Directive (EU WFD) is a good example of how artificial or heavily human-influenced habitats could also be taken into account.
“Even if results of international conservation efforts have been very sobering so far – we scientists will continue to contribute our expertise to highlight the dramatic loss of freshwater biodiversity and help to mitigate and stop it. The recommendations formulated can help to improve the political framework for the protection of aquatic biodiversity”; emphasises Sonja Jähnig.
This is what the researchers recommend to policy and administration actors:
To recognise that:
1. Freshwater should be considered a true ecological “third realm” that deserves legal and scientific prominence in future frameworks and strategies.
2. Freshwater ecosystems should be viewed and recognized as life-supporting units that provide vital ecosystem functions and services in addition to their intrinsic value.
3. Connectivity across multiple spatiotemporal scales and hydrological dimensions is a vital part of conserving and managing freshwater ecosystems.
4. Freshwater ecosystems should be managed and delineated at the catchment scale, considering their drainage networks, catchment areas, and bordering ecotones.
5. Global conservation strategies should make use of systems-thinking to properly navigate the strong societal and economic importance of freshwaters.
Improve monitoring and management:
6) Restoration, improved management, and enforcement within existing freshwater protected areas could provide simultaneous climate and conservation benefits.
7) The identification and adoption of flagship umbrella species is a valuable step for increasing recognition and prioritization of the freshwater biodiversity crisis.
8) Improve the global evidence base for IAS impacts and the selection of IAS indicators of freshwater habitat status.
9) Freshwater monitoring programmes should be reviewed, better coordinated, and funded at national and global scales.
10) Hydrological and biological data on inland waters should be managed according to the FAIR principles (findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable) to support data mobilization and access.
11) Future biodiversity monitoring schemes should take advantage of novel research methods and data sources.
12) Future policies should encourage strategic planning in catchment management to balance human and wildlife water needs.
Cross-cutting issues and approaches:
13) National- and local-scale biodiversity strategies pertaining to freshwater species listing and protection should be better informed by global assessments.
14) Future policies should support research and management that enhance the interactions between IWRM and ecological integrity for freshwater biodiversity conservation.
Eeva Furman: Friend of the UN 2020
Eeva Furman has been named Friend of the UN 2020 for her work promoting sustainable development. Eeva formerly served as ALTER-Net Council Chair from 2011-2014 and is the current Council Representative for SYKE, the Finnish Environment Institute. Congratulations to Eeva on this major (and well-deserved) honor!
“Professor Eeva Furman, the Director of the Environmental Policy Centre at the Finnish Environment Institute SYKE joins a prestigious group, when she is granted the Friend of the United Nations of the Year distinction during the upcoming UN week. The previous recipients of this honorary award include Finnish presidents Tarja Halonen, Martti Ahtisaari and Sauli Niinistö. The UN Association of Finland together with the Friends of the UNA network grant the distinction annually to a person, who has significantly promoted awareness about the UN in Finland, Finland’s active role in the UN or strengthened the role of the UN internationally.
Furman receives the distinction for her remarkable work in promoting sustainable development. In addition to running the Environmental Policy Center at SYKE, Furman is the president of the Expert Panel of Sustainable Development. “For my whole working life, I have been involved in international environmental protection. During these years I have come to understand that working for the environment means also working towards peace”, describes Furman. “Even though working towards the work program of the UN is a part of my job at SYKE, at the same time it is for me a channel through which to be a human, protect the weak and secure the ecosystems of this planet.”
Furman was a part of an expert group of 15 independent participants appointed by the UN to assess the state of sustainable development. For a period of four years the group investigated what all countries and the UN should do in order to turn development into a path towards sustainable development.”
AHIA 2020-21 Blog Post
In 2020, a new AHIA proposal was selected for funding. In the below blog post, the participating researchers explain the context and goals of this high-impact project.
AHIA 2020-21: Demonstrating dependencies between humanity and nature for a sustainable future: A nitrogen case-study
Through this project we want to explore how past and current research on the nitrogen cycle can be used to generate new insights on the dependence of humans on non-human-nature. Insights from this project will provide a new way to view humanity’s place in nature and could help to shape the development of more equitable and sustainable environmental decision-making and management.
The nitrogen (N) cycle is a familiar concept. Many of us first encountered it at school, where it was used to illustrate the scale and importance of global cycles that link air, water, rocks and living things. Humans are often presented as the end recipient of natural processes like the nitrogen cycle, and sometimes are not shown as part of the cycle at all! However, humanity is part of the cycle, being both a direct beneficiary (of food) and direct contributor (fertiliser use) and is impacted by effects of nitrogen on air and water quality. This ALTER-Net High Impact Action (AHIA)-funded project questions what the nitrogen cycle would look like if we rebuild it to more clearly include humans and to show the true scale of our dependence on non-human nature. The project is driven by a desire to provide a different narrative of the relationship between people and nature, that better represents our place in the biosphere.
Through the 12 months of the AHIA award, our interdisciplinary group plans to identify and investigate human-nature relationships and dependencies. Many environmental disciplines argue that considering ‘humanity’ and ‘nature’ as separate is the origin of most environmental problems and there is a growing agreement amongst many people carrying out research on this topic that this view does not appropriately describe humanity’s place on the planet. If we do not recognise this fact, and the negative relationship with the rest of nature that it can encourage, there is little hope of achieving the transformative changes to environment and society that we need to tackle global ecological change and the escalating climate crisis. The project will address a real, current challenge: how to better understand our dependence on nature to help us manage growing global environmental challenges. We recognise that attitudes towards our connection with nature can significantly influence our behaviour and choices, and that shifting attitudes in public and policy discussions is an important part of saving it. We know that nitrogen management underpins almost all Sustainable Development Goals and we hope that the project will add to recent efforts across a range of different development areas.
As students we most likely learned about the nitrogen’s vital role in the biosphere: as a common limiting factor to plant and animal growth. It is a key nutrient on which nature depends. This means that nitrogen is not only vital in the right amounts for natural processes but also for human resource production, crucially food. As such, nitrogen is one of the most human altered cycles exceeding its ‘planetary boundary’ (the proposed level of change that the cycle can sustain before its effects on the functioning of the Earth System may be substantially altered) due to human actions. The nitrogen cycle is, therefore, high on the list of concerns for the global environmental change agenda. Being so critical in our basic nutrition it is also well researched, having many long-established methods for measurement in natural and human systems and there is a plethora of information available. This gives an ideal starting point for our intention to illustrate humanity’s dependence on the rest of the natural world. We will develop the commonly used, simple ‘nitrogen cycle’ into a more detailed and nuanced ‘nitrogen network’, clearly showing linkages and demonstrating how changes in one part of the network can lead
to changes in many other elements of environment, economy and society. With this network as a tool we aim to demonstrate and acknowledge how humanity depends on the rest of the natural world in many ways beyond simple resource consumption. We hope to be able to illustrate human-nature relationships and dependencies to support decisions for transformative change into a sustainable future.
The project team and idea inception occurred at the 2019 ALTER-Net summer school, where we first met and began to realise both our common interests and the need for ideas going beyond current practice which led to the development of this project. This AHIA award project forms part of our ongoing conversations and collaborations.