Food security and biodiversity conservation in Ethiopia: A social-ecological perspective


Globally, food insecurity and biodiversity conservation are major challenges. These issues are highly interlinked, as agriculture is a prerequisite for food security, but also drives biodiversity loss. The intersection of these issues has often been tackled from a natural-science viewpoint, yet to understand the issue from a different and more comprehensive perspective, Fischer et al. (2021) set out to use a social-ecological perspective. They applied this perspective to a smallholder dominated region of southwest Ethiopia to explore relationships between food insecurity and biodiversity conservation there.

Southwest Ethiopia: Photograph by Girma Shumi

The authors applied the theoretical framework by Wittman et al. (2017), which suggested that as food security and biodiversity conservation are strongly interconnected, they cannot be meaningfully addressed in isolation from another. Further, Fischer et al. (2021) followed theoretical integration principles by “place, case and process”, to create a study design that was truly place-based and transdisciplinary. The authors…

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Crisis disruptions and place-based social-ecological research: Recommendations and opportunities for the future.


Crises affect research in many ways. Place-based research especially is affected by many threats, such as natural hazards, global health crises, and political conflicts, which have the potential to greatly disrupt fieldwork. The COVID-19 pandemic, for example, has affected social-ecological research activities significantly, due to the field’s reliance on stakeholder engagement and connections with different knowledge and natural systems. In order to produce recommendations for future place-based social-ecological research in crisis situations, Hermans et al. (2021) sought to reveal the vulnerabilities and opportunities that crisis brings to research, with the aim to create a more sustainable research landscape in the future.

The authors attempted to learn from existing experiences with crisis-related disruptions, especially due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They reflected on examples of setbacks and opportunities in order to create strategies and guidance on constructively handling similar crisis-related disruptions to place-based research in the future. These recommendations were as follows:

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Open faculty position: “Ecology, in particular vegetation ecology and biodiversity conservation” (W2/W3)

Reproduced here from our university’s website:

2021-07-29 The Faculty of Sustainability at Leuphana University of Lüneburg invites applications for the following full professorship:

Ecology, in particular Vegetation Ecology and Biodiversity Conservation (W2/W3)

You are a committed researcher with an outstanding international research profile in the field of vegetation ecology and conservation. Your research mainly focuses on functional aspects of vegetation (but may span other taxonomic groups as well), and how functional biodiversity, as well as ecosystem functions and services, contribute to sustaining and creating sustainable landscapes. Your research strives to move the field of biodiversity conservation forward, thus making a key contribution to evidence-based conservation. You combine a range of biodiversity and conservation methods focusing on vegetation and its link to soils and management, ranging from replicated experiments (which can include field and controlled experiments) to observational field work in real-world landscapes. For example, to provide evidence-based solutions for sustainable land-use management decisions requires a strong grounding in functional biodiversity knowledge and experience from an ecological perspective, including knowledge of habitat and species characteristics and the interactive role of different global change drivers. In times of multiple and increasing demands on landscapes, which has brought the topic of multifunctionality into focus, a better integration of the field of Biodiversity Ecosystem Functioning (BEF) and delivery of ecosystem services and conservation outcomes is needed. The Faculty of Sustainability with its strong functional biodiversity and landscape management research in the institute of ecology and in other institutes, including the newly founded Socialecological Systems Institute (SESI), is the ideal place for you to contribute to achieving this goal.

Examples of core themes you could work on are: plant-soil interactions, global change research, biodiversity-ecosystem functioning, invasive species and/or climate change as drivers of biodiversity loss, multifuntionality of landscapes within conservation and ecological restoration, functional traits and biodiversity conservation, or linking biodiversity and community assembly.

You combine excellence in your field with a track record of developing unique ideas and theories that you strive to test for their relevance in practice, preferably including experimental approaches at plot and/or landscape scales, thus impacting your academic field as well as society and the science-policy interface. You are active in interdisciplinary and/or transdisciplinary research and cooperate actively with a range of different academic and non-academic stakeholders.

The research topics addressed should be integrated into the Faculty of Sustainability’s teaching programmes at both undergraduate and graduate levels. You have a strong grounding in vegetation ecology and are able to teach both undergraduate and graduate-level courses in vegetation ecology. You have experience in teaching about biodiversity, vegetation ecology and conservation. You maybe even combine research-driven teaching in innovative formats that span ecological theory as well as conservation practice. Teaching responsibilities will include courses in ecology (i.e. biogeochemistry and global change, soil ecology and landscape ecology) with a strong focus on ecology and global change as well as ecosystem functioning and services (e.g. lectures, field and lab courses) within the B.Sc. Environmental Sciences & Global Environmental Science and Sustainablity (GESS) and the M.Sc. Sustainablity Science. Applicants should have a proven experience in the supervision of students (bachelor, master and PhD) relative to career opportunity.

Requirements include extensive experience with practical ecological work and a strong track record (relative to opportunity) with respect to publications and the acquisition of third-party funding. The professorial position will be filled in accordance with pay grade W2/W3 (university professor).

Formal requirements according to § 25 of the Lower Saxony Higher Education Act (NHG) are: a university degree relevant to the open position for example in ecology or environmental science or others; a doctoral degree in ecology and related fields; experience and aptitude in teaching; an ability to engage in independent academic research, as demonstrated by the outstanding quality of your dissertation as well as additional academic achievements obtained (e.g. in the course of being an assistant professor, during your postdoctoral lecturer qualification or habilitation in Germany).

At Leuphana you will find an academic community that is open for many different perspectives and cultivates dialogue among different disciplines as well as between research and practice. With spirit and initiative, we address the challenges facing civil society in the 21st century. Pursuing our idea of liberal education, our students are enabled to think, question and act upon it. Our professors foster the awareness of gender and diversity aspects in teaching as well as research.

For further information, please contact the Dean of the Faculty Prof. Dr. Henrik von Wehrden ( or the deputy head of the Institute of Ecology Prof. Dr. Vicky Temperton (

Leuphana University is an equal opportunities employer and encourages applications from women, disabled persons, and people from other minorities who will be given priority consideration if as equally qualified as other applicants.

Please submit your application consisting of the following materials in two separate PDF files: a) motivation letter, CV, full publication list, full credentials and contact details of two academic referees, copies of academic degrees and b) five key relevant publications (combined as one pdf). Guidance on the required application materials can be found here.

Please submit your application by September 19, 2021, using the keyword Ecology, preferably electronically to or to the President of Leuphana University of Lüneburg, Post Box 2440, 21314 Lüneburg, Germany. Please be aware that we cannot return applications sent physically.

The complete call for applications is available for download here.

By submitting your application, you consent to your data being stored and processed for the purpose of the recruitment process. Please note our Data Protection Notice for Applicants (in English or in German).

Calcareous Grasslands: Local and Landscape Biodiversity Responses and Conservation Implications


Land use change has been a major problem since the 20th century due to its contributions to biodiversity loss, as well as landscape fragmentation and degradation. These land use changes are often through agricultural intensification or abandonment, especially in calcareous grasslands (those on thin basic soil, such as chalk or limestone, with short and hardy vegetation – see image below). Due to calcareous grasslands having a high biodiversity and species richness, but also facing a severe decline due to fragmentation and land use change, conservation here is desperately needed. Therefore Loos et al. (2021) explored the local and landscape effects of calcareous grassland fragmentation on different taxonomic groups, and especially their diversity patterns, in order to understand the effects on different scales and identify future conservation options.

Photo by Jacqueline Loos

The authors surveyed 31 grassland fragments near Göttingen, Germany for vascular plants, butterflies and birds, using regression modelling to…

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Key advantages of the leverage points perspective for shaping human-nature relations – a synthesis.


It has long been recognised in scientific discourse that current short-term and technological solutions to control climate change and promote sustainability are falling short of creating systemic change. To enable a sustainability transformation, we need interventions that tackle the root causes of the current un-sustainable trajectory of the Anthropocene. One way to achieve more sustainability is through reconnection with nature. Based on the individual works published in the Special Issue: Human-nature connectedness as leverage points for sustainability transformation (presented in last weeks blog post), 15 authors came together to synthesize their lessons learnt. Their newly published paper highlights the key advantages of the leverage points perspective to shape human-nature relations (Riechers et al. 2021).

Riechers et al. (2021) examines four key advantages of the leverage points perspective (LPP) in fostering human-nature relations:

(1) The LPP enables a focus on deep leverage points. The authors highlight the deep leverage…

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Special Issue Editorial: How can human-nature connectedness be a leverage point for sustainability transformation?


As is becoming abundantly clear, early climate-change warnings have not been effective, as the planet continues on its unsustainable pathway, crossing planetary boundaries and racing towards a sixth mass extinction. Despite the existence of many international agreements and goals being made, more diverse interventions are needed. Therefore, by approaching this sustainability problem through a systems perspective, more effective solutions might be found to adapt and transform whole systems. The current Special Issue: Human-Nature Connectedness as Leverage Points for Sustainability Transformation is now out in the Journal Ecosystem & People. The Editorial of this special issue (Riechers et al. 2021) aims to present an overview of the inspiring articles published to show new ways of re-connecting humans to nature (see Fig. 1).

For example, Raatikainen et al. (2020) maintain that reconnecting to nature has the potential to reveal deep leverage points that could transform our current, unsustainable system. Bieling et…

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How can nature-based solutions foster transformative change? Assessing the potential for change in mountain environments.


In order to meet global sustainability targets, it is becoming increasingly obvious that profound and fundamental changes are needed. This transformative change is necessary to meet biodiversity targets, therefore a reframing of social-ecological relationships could be useful, especially by considering nature-based solutions to sustainability problems. Nature-based solutions could influence science and policy, and foster transformative change for sustainability outcomes. Therefore Palomo et al. (2021) sought to fill this research gap and create a framework linking these concepts.

Researchers taking part in the TRANSMOUNT workshop. (Photographed by Ignacio Palomo, 2021)

The authors produced a framework to determine which elements of nature-based solutions could enable transformative change, how it could occur and what the outcomes might be. Palomo et al. (2021) assessed nature-based solutions in mountain regions to exemplify the functionality of this framework, due to mountain ecosystems being highly vulnerable to climate change and supplying key services to upland and lowland…

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How effective are protected areas? Integrating conservation and development in the Global South.


Globally, biodiversity is in a rapid and catastrophic decline and in efforts to protect this from climate change and land degradation, protected areas have often been seen as a solution. In many regions, they are essential to maintaining biodiversity, but are also contested spaces, which can create negative social effects and limit ecological effectiveness. Tensions within the fields of conservation and development in regard to protected areas exist, and the divergence of these fields is a recent consequence, especially in the Global South. Loos (2021) therefore explored the areas of conflict within these fields and suggested reconciliation strategies to improve protected area effectiveness.

Loos (2021) outlined that while protected areas are flawed, they also represent a great opportunity to align development with conservation goals. These flaws are seen especially in the Global South, through continuing deforestation, natural resource overexploitation, land degradation and poaching. Protected areas might fail their ecological goals…

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How important are grassland ecosystem services? Exploring differences in citizen and farmer perspectives in Southern Bavaria.


Grasslands cover one third of the Earth’s terrestrial surface and provide biodiversity, disaster risk, socio-cultural and economic services to humans, yet their ecosystem service contributions are vastly understudied in research. Understanding how ecosystem services are valued by people, and especially where differences and conflicts lie, is important for creating effective management strategies that benefit multiple stakeholders. To fill this research gap, Schmitt et al. (2021) researched ecosystem service perceptions by citizens and farmers in Bavarian pre- and- Alpine grasslands to better pinpoint areas of potential conflict, mismatch and agreement.

Schmitt et al. (2021) explored citizen perceptions and management of grasslands by examining the perceived suitability of grassland ecosystem services by citizens, along with the importance assigned to these ecosystem services by farmers in management strategies. The authors conducted surveys with citizens and farmers in Alpine and foothill grasslands under different management styles in southern Bavaria, Germany (see Figure 1).


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Fishing, Tourism, and Social-Ecological Vulnerability: How can Spanish coastal systems become more resilient?


Coastal marine systems are some of the most biodiverse and productive planetary systems and provide significant ecosystem services that directly support fishing and tourism industries. However, the industries themselves, in combination with other human activities, are increasing the vulnerability of these systems. In order to contribute to a better understanding of just how vulnerable these systems are, Lazzari et al. (2021) researched the stressors, capacity for survival, and social-ecological dimensions affecting temperate coastal systems in Spain.

Marine Biodiversity, Fuerteventura (Photograph: Natali Lazzari)

The authors implemented the Social-Ecological Vulnerability (SEV) framework to assess the vulnerability of 5 marine ecoregions along the Spanish coastal system. Often these vulnerabilities arose from the overexploitation of coastal systems by fisheries, urbanisation, tourism, and climate change, which have led to them being the most degraded habitat in Spain. Lazzari et al. (2021) determined the system capacity to cope with pressures, through the mapping of hotspots of…

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