Lake BESS results presented at the BES-BESS Symposium 2017, Cardiff, 24-26 April

BESS – Biodiversity & Ecosystem Services Sustainability – was a £15M 2011-2017 research programme funded by NERC, the UK research council concerned with the natural environment. This conference was a wrap up event co-organised with the BES, the British Ecological Society and hosted by the Water Research Institute at Cardiff University.

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It was a great opportunity to present results from our Lakes BESS project, my first postdoc, and interact with a fun bunch of researchers with similar interests. It was also a chance to learn about the tremendous research advances in the field of biodiversity and ecosystem services achieved by BESS researchers and others.

The most thought-provoking talk was delivered by Kai Chan from the University of British Columbia, Canada. He defended ideas published in his 2016 PNAS paper:

Chan et al 2016. Why protect nature? Rethinking values and the environment PNAS  113 (6) 1462-1465. doi:10.1073/pnas.1525002113

His talk aimed to demonstrate that relational values drive biodiversity and ecosystem services protection, in addition to the commonly accepted intrinsic and instrumental values of nature.

Was the audience convinced? His talked certainly sparked great interest and numerous questions. For sure there is an empty gap to be filled around the classic divide between protecting the environment for its intrinsic value or for very utilitarian reasons. This simplistic intrinsic-instrumental value scheme is simply not sufficient anymore.

However, I remain to be convinced ‘relational values’ completely fill this gap – and even I remain to fully comprehend what is meant by ‘relational values’ – a notion I am not familiar enough with, as an ecologist.

The other outstanding talk I would like to highlight here is that of Elena Bennett from McGill University, Canada. She demonstrated with practical example from work carried out by her lab how ecosystem services can inform multifunctional landscape management.

She also finished her talk by reminding us about the “importance of the contributions of both nature and human action to the provision of services”, i.e. the natural environment does not simply provide us with what we need, quite the reverse ecosystem services also strongly depend on us working with nature, in a co-production.

Many other contributions could be mentioned here, including a whole session dedicated to ecological resilience. Our Lake BESS presentation was well received judging by the positive comments people shared.

My talk title was: Landscape connectivity is important for lake ecosystem function and biodiversity and I am pleased to share slides from the introduction and conclusion:

Lake BESS talk Cardiff for blogpostLake BESS talk Cardiff for blogpost2Lake BESS talk Cardiff for blogpost3

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Methods in Ecology and Evolution cover page

The Oostvaardersplassen, palaeoecology and dung fungal spores made the November 2016 cover page of Methods in Ecology and Evolution, with our paper:

Baker et al. (2016) Quantification of population sizes of large herbivores and their long-term functional role in ecosystems using dung fungal spores. Methods in Ecology and Evolution. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/2041-210X.12580.

Follow this link for more information about this photo cover.

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Blog post for NERC Hydroscape website

Please visit the Hydroscape website to read how Hydroscape’s field work is the cherry on my research cake! This light-hearted post introduces some of my post-doc research using anecdotes brought back from our field work campaign in North Norfolk, the Lake District and the Glasgow area.

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Sparganium natans at it’s best surrounded by white waterlilies at Grizedale Tarn East, Cumbria

Blog post for Methods in Ecology and Evolution official blog

Please visit methods.blog to read about European Bison, Rewilding and Dung Fungal Spore. I was invited to write this blog post for the official blog of Methods in Ecology and Evolution following our article:

Baker et al. (2016) Quantification of population sizes of large herbivores and their long-term functional role in ecosystems using dung fungal spores. Methods in Ecology and Evolution. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/2041-210X.12580

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The Oostvaardersplassen. Photo: EM Kintze, I Van Stokkum

New paper: Quantification of large herbivore populations… using dung fungal spores

Baker et al. (2016) Quantification of population sizes of large herbivores and their long-term functional role in ecosystems using dung fungal spores. Methods in Ecology and Evolution. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/2041-210X.12580

Article first published online: 12 MAY 2016

You’ll be interested in our latest paper developing the dung fungal spore method and published in Methods in Ecology and Evolution.

With this paper and our 2013 review (see this post), my co-authors and I open the path for improved quantitative reconstruction of large herbivore population sizes. These quantitative reconstructions will be critical for any future research to contribute to topical themes such as rewilding, megafauna and ecosystem function.

Most of the research examining the relationship between large herbivores and their impact on landscapes has used extant studies. An alternative approach is to estimate the impact of variations in herbivore populations through time using fossil dung fungal spores and pollen in sedimentary sequences. The ponds at Oostvaardersplassen provided the ideal setting  to develop further the dung fungal spore method and determine the relationship between spore abundance in sediments and herbivore biomass densities. Our results indicate that this method provides a robust quantitative measure of herbivore population size over time.

The Oostvaardersplassen, The Netherlands, is a nature reserve established on polder land. Re-wilding was initiated at this site from 1983 with the introduction of free-ranging Heck cattle (Bos taurus Linnaeus) in 1983, Konik horses (Equus ferus caballus Linnaeus) in 1984 and red deer (Cervus elaphus Linnaeus) in 1992. Moreover, 1001 ponds were created throughout the reserve between 1985 and 2000 for avian biodiversity. The site is managed with a policy of minimal intervention, i.e. the population size of freely roaming large herbivores is not controlled by culling, no supplementary feeding is given during winter and no management intervention is implemented to maintain vegetation.

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New paper: Phytolith analysis reveals the intensity of past land use change in the Western Ghats biodiversity hotspot.

Nogué, S., Whicher, K., Baker, A.G., Bhagwat, S.A. & Willis, K.J. (2016) Phytolith analysis reveals the intensity of past land use change in the Western Ghats biodiversity hotspot. Quaternary International.

Article first published online: 8 March 2016.

 

Second post-doc on freshwater biodiversity

From January 1st 2016, I will start working as a post-doctoral researcher on the newly funded project Hydroscape, one of NERC’s highlight topics.

Hydroscape is led by Dr Nigel Willby at the University of Stirling and is interested in the importance of interactions between connectivity and stressors for freshwater biodiversity.

From   https://hydroscapeblog.wordpress.com/about/   :

“Hydroscape is a four-year project that started in December 2015 and is funded by the UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). It aims to determine how stressors and connectivity interact to influence biodiversity and ecosystem function in freshwaters across Britain. While stressors such as nutrient pollution and climate change drive ecological degradation, connectivity between freshwater habitats is a major force behind both dispersal of stressors and biodiversity. Currently, the implication for freshwaters of future changes in stressor intensity and in connectivity levels across Britain are poorly understood. Hydroscape will significantly improve this understanding and therefore inform the work of organisations engaged in waterbody restoration, biological conservation, the control of invasive species and diseases of wildlife and humans, at the international, national and local level.”

My main focus within Hydroscape will be on the “Distribution of biodiveristy within the landscape” and how connectivity affects biodiversity distibution, connectivity being a measure of potential for dispersal.