Ecosystem Service Mapping and Species-Based Ecosystem Services. Are we ignoring a crucial aspect of ecosystem services and biodiversity?

SCIENCE FOR SUSTAINABILITY

Ecosystem functions and services are paramount to survival, and comprehensive spatial assessments thereof are required in order to promote conservation and ecosystem management. To quantify ecosystem service supply, species-based providers or biophysical providers are used by researchers, although biophysical providers are most often investigated in large-scale, multi-service assessments through high quality mapping and remote sensing. Species-based ecosystem service providers are not represented as often, although these contribute greatly human wellbeing. To fill this knowledge gap, Ceausu et al. (2021) calculated the distributions to understand individual species’ relative importance to the supply of ecosystem services.

Fig. 1.Weighted provider richness for species-based services at 50×50km resolution. The color categories display quantiles (Ceausu et al. 2021).

Fig. 2.Spatial distribution of biophysical services at 50×50km resolution. The color categories display quantiles (Ceausu et al. 2021).

Ceausu et al. (2021) calculated the indicator for species provider richness weighted by functional efficiency for 9 species-based ecosystem…

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Confronting Grief and Finding Hope in the Future of Conservation.

SCIENCE FOR SUSTAINABILITY

Biodiversity conservation can be a difficult topic to study when catastrophic projections and bad news is ever-present, combined with the intense urgency to act. Soulé (1985) referred to it as a ‘crisis discipline’, while terms such as ‘eco-anxiety’ and ‘ecological grief’ are gaining popularity and relevance. Fischer and Riechers (2021) therefore try to understand how conservation professionals can change their inner worlds and perspectives, in order to confront feelings of grief, and channel these to more empowering and hopeful visions of the future.

Fischer and Riechers (2021) were inspired by and reflected on the works of Michael Soulé, and presented this paper to incite conversations and focus on themes relating to compassion, interrelatedness, impermanence and normativity in conservation.

The authors focussed on centering compassion in order to reduce scapegoating and blame games. Often, our own research comes from a place of life-affirmation, and the authors highlighted that by understanding differences…

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How effective are current interventions into marine pollution as mentioned in literature? A leverage points perspective.

SCIENCE FOR SUSTAINABILITY

Marine pollution is a broad and multifaceted issue that is being increasingly understood and recognised, however unsustainable pathways continue to threaten the global biosphere. Therefore, Riechers et al. (2021) conducted literature-based research to identify the drivers of rising marine pollution, major research foci and pollutants, and the characteristics of suggested interventions. The authors attempted to understand how knowledge can best be used to effectively address marine pollution.

Coastal Pollution: Image by Sabine Wiedlich

The authors applied the leverage points concept of Meadows (1999) to their literature review in order to identify the type, spatial distribution and depth of the interventions discussed. They classified the scientific studies and interventions according to this leverage points perspective, in order to determine the ability of the interventions to create lasting change. Riechers et al. (2021) hypothesised that sustainability interventions would likely be focussed on highly tangible and short-term goals, rather than targeting transformative change…

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Mammal Diversity and Rural Housing Developments: Studying Impacts of Human Population Growth in SW Ethiopia.

SCIENCE FOR SUSTAINABILITY

The impacts of human population growth, consumption and expansion of cities and rural dwellings affect biodiversity worldwide. However, often the biodiversity and rural impacts of local population growth have only been considered in the Global North. In the context that half of projected population growth by 2050 is expected to occur in Sub-Saharan Africa, and in considering that much of this growth will be in rural settings, the effects on rural ecosystems are a topic area that requires more research (UN, 2019). Therefore, Rodrigues et al. (2021) explored these impacts in biodiversity-rich areas undergoing rural population growth in southwestern Ethiopia.

The mantled guereza, also known as the Eastern black-and-white colobus, as photographed by a remotely-triggered camera trap (Rodrigues et al. 2021).

The chosen study area covered 3800km2 of moist evergreen forest and coffee production areas in the Jimma zone of Oromia, which the authors chose due to the…

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Wild Edible Plants: A Woman’s or a Man’s World? Gendered Differences in WEP Knowledge and Gathering in Spain.

SCIENCE FOR SUSTAINABILITY

Within local knowledge systems research, gender is a relatively unexplored topic. Despite women’s significant roles in economic and domestic spheres, their connection and knowledge regarding social-ecological systems requires more attention. Acosta-Naranjo et al. (2021) have therefore conducted long-term research in three regions of Spain in order to understand differences in knowledge, consumption and gathering of wild edible plants (WEP) by men and women, and the causes or context behind this. This approach is led by previous research in the area proposing that wild edible plant location determined whether it was harvested by men or women, thus the relationship between gendered relationships to space and place, and WEPs was researched.

In order to collect this data, Acosta-Naranjo et al. (2021) selected three study areas, within which qualitative and quantitative data collection was to take place. The regions of Doñana, Sierra Morena Extremeña, and Sierra Norte de Madrid were chosen, due…

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Enhancing Sustainability by Reconnecting with Nature: Leverage Points associated with Human-Nature Connectedness

SCIENCE FOR SUSTAINABILITY

Multiple threats face the sustainability and survival of social-ecological systems. In recent years, a growing focus on the potential of different actions in producing lasting change has emerged. Meadows’ (1999) paper concerning leverage points has been a catalyst for the growth of this field. However, the application of this perspective to real-world scenarios and cultural landscapes has been slow. Riechers et al. (2021) discuss the ability of human-nature connections to produce changes in sustainability through a leverage points perspective (see Box 1). The authors analyse the ways in which different aspects of human-nature connectedness portray leverage points, at which interventions could be key in reversing unsustainable cultural landscape changes in five different communities throughout Europe.

Box 1. Description of terms used regarding the leverage points perspective. These descriptions are partly direct quotes from the sources named below, partly defined or edited by the authors (Riechers et al. 2021:2).

Riechers et…

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Boundary Object, Bridging Concept, or Metaphor? Resilience in Recent Sustainability Research

SCIENCE FOR SUSTAINABILITY

The concept of resilience has become increasingly popular over the past years – especially in sustainability science. As of late 2020, there were almost 13,000 peer-reviewed publications in the Scopus scientific database that mentioned both resilience and sustainability. However, the definitions of resilience vary greatly. In their recent paper, Nüchter et al. (2021) investigate how the concept of resilience has been used in peer-reviewed empirical sustainability science articles that were published from 2014 to 2018. More specifically, the authors seek to provide an overview of the current research landscape of empirical resilience research in sustainability science and to contribute to the discussion on the potential of resilience as a boundary object. To this end, they combine an inductive text analysis with a multivariate statistical full-text analysis of 112 journal articles.

The qualitative content analysis revealed that a social-ecological resilience understanding was most popular in sustainability science literature: while one third…

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Caring for the Planet While Caring for Each Other: Leadership Collectives for Sustainability Transformations

SCIENCE FOR SUSTAINABILITY

The world faces multiple, interconnected sustainability challenges. Researchers publish ever more findings on trends and developments, knowledge on feedbacks and drivers, or frameworks for methodological approaches. While essential to sustainability theory and practice, however, this is not sufficient to induce real change. In their recent paper, Care et al. (2021) argue that sustainability transformations also require polycentric leadership collectives. The authors share the insights they collected in the context of a training program for early-career scholars with a focus on leadership competencies for sustainability over the past 2 years. Thereby, they provide a synthesis of opportunities, gaps, and critical needs for an alternative model of leadership.

“O. Care” serves as a first-author pseudonym for publications by the Careoperative, a group of researchers from different institutions and disciplines. Right: Picture of a visit to Voelkel juices. (Both pictures from Gunnar Dreßler)

According to Care et al. (2021), current leadership models remain…

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Of Sleeping Jackals And Proud Lions: Participatory Scenario Planning to Facilitate Human-Wildlife Coexistence

SCIENCE FOR SUSTAINABILITY

Where humans and wildlife coexist, conflicts are part of the interactions between the two groups. While ecological and economic aspects of human-wildlife conflicts have been extensively researched, social dimensions commonly receive less attention. In their recent paper, Jiren et al. (2021) introduce a step-by-step template for how to use participatory scenario planning to address human-wildlife coexistence. Their framework allows stakeholders to jointly identify plausible future trajectories for their region and develop management responses by engaging in a transdisciplinary process. The authors illustrate the application of their template with the help of a case study in the Zambezi region of Namibia. There, growing wildlife populations and human encroachment resulted in an intensification of human-wildlife conflicts over the last few decades.

The Zambezi region is home to diverse wildlife including lions and jackals, as well as to people who mainly rely on subsistence agriculture and livestock. Conflicts between humans and wildlife jeopardize…

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Revisiting Biodiversity Research and Action

By Carina Wyborn (Australian National University) and Jasper Montana (University of Oxford)

Addressing interconnected challenges of environmental degradation and social justice requires revisiting the foundations of biodiversity research and action

The announcement from the UN-backed IPBES Global Assessment that 1 million species are at risk of extinction offered a sobering statistic on the state of the natural world. The potential for catastrophic loss of biodiversity highlights the need for research and action that takes the scope, complexity and stakes of environmental degradation seriously. While species loss attracts headline news, improving relations between humanity and the ecosystems and environments upon which they depend demands attention to the ways in which biodiversity loss, climate change, poverty, injustice and inequality around the globe are interconnected.

A tree of commitments that participants made at the Biodiversity Revisited Symposium in Vienna, 2019

A research agenda recently published in Conservation Biology outlines the possible role for research in enabling a transition towards more diverse and just futures for life on Earth. It sets out an agenda for researchers, research funders and research institutions to consider as a possible roadmap for a way forward in biodiversity-related research.

The agenda emerged from a two-year collaboration involving nearly 300 multidisciplinary researchers, practitioners, writers and journalists of 46 nationalities called the Biodiversity Revisited initiative. The process began as a self-reflective dialogue about what was wrong with current research on biodiversity, why it had failed to mobilise collective action, and how research might move forwards in productive ways.

The published agenda argues for a principles-based approach to research and action for biodiversity, which we call ‘revisiting biodiversity’. Instead of prescribing a particular set of ‘one-size-fits-all’ actions, the agenda identities a set of nine overarching principles (Figure 1.) that can help researchers, practitioners and decision-makers to reframe biodiversity research in a holistic way that emphasises justice and the inclusion of a diversity of perspectives from different disciplines, knowledge systems and experiences.

Figure 1. The nine principles of revisiting biodiversity

The agenda sets out four themes.

  • “Revisiting biodiversity narratives” addresses the entrenched concepts and narratives that have separated humans, cultures, economies and societies from nature.
  • “Anthropocene, biodiversity, and culture” explores perspectives on the fundamental and evolving relationships between biodiversity and human cultures.
  • “Nature and economy” examines the existing economic and financial systems, which are some of the primary drivers of biodiversity loss.
  • “Enabling transformative biodiversity research and change” draws all of these together, focusing on what individuals and institutions can do to embrace and open up spaces for transformative change by expanding the knowledge, values and cultures utilised within biodiversity research.

These themes are not exhaustive, but set out research questions considered by the author team to be important to broadening thinking and collaboration for biodiversity, and encouraging a more comprehensive understanding of what constitutes ‘desirable’ futures.

Time is of the essence and the ongoing task of revisiting biodiversity will take many forms. We hope that this agenda can offer a renewed vision of the what and the how of future transdisciplinary research and action for biodiversity and social justice. We invite others to engage with it as an open and adaptable resource that inspires, rather than prescribes, new collaborative engagement between different sectors of society and academia.

Download the Conservation Biology paper or the long-form Biodiversity Revisited research agenda.

Visit Biodiversity Revisited for more information about the initiative and its outputs, including Seeds of Change, a compilation of expert reviews and provocative essays that preceded this agenda.

Biodiversity Revisited was led by the Luc Hoffmann Institute in collaboration with WWF, Future Earth, ETH Zürich Department of Environmental Systems Science, the University of Cambridge Conservation Research Institute, and the Centre for Biodiversity and Environment Research at University College London.

This initiative was generously supported by the NOMIS Foundation, MAVA Foundation, Foundation for Environmental Conservation and The Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center.