Cider-apple Farmers’ Perceptions and Knowledge of Biological Control


Agricultural production is reliant on regulating ecosystem services. One important yet underexplored regulating service is biological control, the reduction of one organism population by another one. While biological control can benefit agriculture in diverse ways, it is decreasing worldwide. In a recent study, Martínez-Sastre et al. (2020) used questionnaires to examine farmers’ perceptions and knowledge of the biodiversity underpinning biological control in cider-apple orchards in northern Spain.

Graphical abstract representing that those farmers with higher levels of local ecological knowledge and education are able to recognize more diversity of species that provide biological control than those who use insecticides and see farming as a leisure activity. (Martínez-Sastre et al. 2020, p.1).

Biological control refers to the process by which beneficial organisms, so-called natural enemies, reduce the occurrence of pest organisms without any human intervention. Here, high biodiversity of natural enemies is known to enhance biological control. However, as not all…

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Human-Nature Connectedness in Simplified Landscapes: Exploring Relational Values


From soy monocultures in the Amazon to palm oil plantations in Southeast Asia and agricultural intensification in Europe: landscape simplification is taking place all over the world. In a recently published paper, Riechers et al. (2020) argue that in addition to ecological degradation, the simplification of landscapes can also have detrimental effects on human-nature relationships. Using a landscape sustainability science framing, the paper explores interconnections between ecological and social changes taking place in rural landscapes. Here, the authors draw on the concept of relational values to provide a conceptual framework that hypothesizes ecological, social-ecological and social consequences resulting from landscape simplification.

Around the world, the face of agriculture is changing. Traditional agricultural landscapes commonly provide a balance of provisioning, regulating and cultural ecosystem services. In contrast, simplified agricultural landscapes largely supply the single provisioning service of crop production, meanwhile sacrificing other types of services and degrading ecological functions. By trading…

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Staying Grounded: Using Vegetation Indices to Inform Carabid Beetle Conservation

Another post by the SES group at Leuphana


Large parts of China are covered by steppes: more than 40% of the country’s terrestrial surface exhibit different types of grassland. In these ecosystems, carabids constitute one of the most abundant beetles. These carabid or ground beetle communities do not only depend on the biotic and abiotic characteristics of their local habitat but are also influenced by habitat structures at the landscape level. A recently published study by Tsafack et al. (2020) examines the relationships between land cover and carabid abundance at different spatial scales to inform conservation actions.

There are more than 40,000 ground beetle species worldwide.

Strong anthropogenic pressures in the form of climate change and intensive land use modify grasslands all over the world. In the study area in northern China, related processes like desertification and habitat degradation directly influence the local fauna. In the case of the carabid beetles, it is known that their response to…

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Harmonising Biodiversity Conservation and Food Security: Five Years of Research in Southwestern Ethiopia


The southwest of Ethiopia is home to a rich variety of animal and plant species – many of them endemic or threatened. These species, in combination with intense human pressure on land, make the region a globally recognized biodiversity hotspot and thus highly relevant for conservation. At the same time, millions of people in the area strive to improve their food security and general well-being. Understanding and governing the intersection of biodiversity conservation and food security needs to take different elements of the social-ecological system of southwestern Ethiopia into consideration to enable context-specific action. This task is both highly complex and acute.

Over the past five years, a group of scientists from diverse disciplinary backgrounds collaboratively conducted research at several study sites in southwestern Ethiopia. A recently published book by the interdisciplinary research collaboration now offers a summary of the findings and insights generated during that time (Manlosa et al…

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A Reconciliation of Success in Times of a Global Crisis

Please consider following the science4sustainability blog, where this is reproduced from. Thanks!


By Jacqueline Loos

Currently, many people are worrying about their lives and the lives of their beloved ones. Some people, especially the most vulnerable among us, may be losing the little income they have during this time of shutdown, or work under circumstances that won´t allow them the luxury of physical distancing, not enjoying any health insurance, while maybe having no access to clean water or facing domestic violence during #stayhome.

Meanwhile, worries about a scientific career or general academic productivity seem irrelevant, yet there is a real pressure for success for people working in research. Maybe it´s a good time now to reconcile what we can consider a success at day-to-day basis. Here some suggestions what we can consider successes instead:

  • Every minute of focus on or constructive thoughts about work is already a tiny step towards our original goals.
  • Accepting the current condition is already a crucial step…

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Growing Hope – Supporting Biodiversity and Enhancing Human Well-Being


A myriad of factors drive habitat loss from the local to the global level: global warming, land-use change, pollution, agricultural intensification and land abandonment all contribute to the current decline in biodiversity. Although not as visible as large mammals, insects are also subjected to a loss in their species richness. This in turn directly and indirectly affects human well-being. A documentary shot by the students of the seminar Ecological Restoration for Sustainability in the Sustainability Science Minor at Leuphana University (Germany) illustrates how agricultural production is linked to habitat loss resulting in a decline of insects and other species all over the world and presents people and projects actively working for a more sustainable world.

In the documentary, 12 undergraduate students interviewed scientists as well as non-academic actors in the field of ecological restoration, conservation and alternative food production. The documentary Growing Hope both presents an overview of the problems…

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Where do we go from here? A blog post on crisis and leverage

Leverage Points for Sustainability Transformation

This post is written by Julia Leventon, Ioana Duse, Felix Beyers, Tamara Schaal and Josefine Laudan. They work together as a research group at Leuphana University, headed by Julia. The projects they work on are primarily focused on systems change for sustainability, within the food and textiles systems. Julia is currently in the Czech Republic with her family (and therefore in week 2 of lock-down), the others are at home in Germany.

On day 5 of quarantine, I (Julia) walked to the top of the hill at the back of my house. I sat for a bit and listened to the bird song. And for the first time in days, I felt like there might be some hope. I am scared right now, for my family and friends, for my colleagues, and for people I have never met; for humanity. Covid-19 is challenging and removing the…

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Human Disturbances and Land-Cover Types: Understanding Woody Plant Species Diversity in Ethiopia


In the 21st century, there are no places left on earth which are truly untouched by humans. This also holds true for the Wanchi watershed in the Ethiopian highlands. There, a mix of human land-use change and environmental variables shape local ecosystems. To find out how the diversity of woody plant species in the area responds to anthropogenic disturbances and topographic parameters, Angessa et al. (2020) recently analysed three different land-cover types in the watershed.

Three of the 104 woody plant species found in the study area. Right: Erica arborea (picture: Francisco Clamote). Middle: Hagenia abyssinica (picture: Alberto Vascon). Left: Myrsine melanophloeos (Robert von Blittersdorff).

From creating habitats for animal species to providing a myriad of ecosystem services critical for human well-being: Plant communities are a central factor shaping liveable environments by supporting local biodiversity. Yet, their sustainable management can turn out to be a complex challenge. Human induced disturbances…

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Not so different after all? Linking sustainability science and social-ecological systems research to foster transformation


The sustainability challenges we face in the Anthropocene are diverse and complex. Different disciplines, all aiming at creating socially relevant sustainability outcomes, have developed distinct approaches to knowledge creation over time. Typically, these disciplines collaborate to generate solutions to sustainability problems. Horcea-Milcu et al. (2020) take a closer look at sustainability science and social-ecological systems research to find synergies and differences in these two research fields in order to gain insights to foster transformation.

Sustainability science and social-ecological systems research share a common purpose: they seek to foster sustainability transformations. But while sustainability science tends to focus on actionable contextualized knowledge concerned with interventions in systems, social-ecological systems research aims to understand the system dynamics in order to identify where to intervene in the system. These different approaches influence the way knowledge is created, shared, and used in practice.

By exploring the interlinkages between the two research fields, the authors…

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Return to Sender: Bringing Back the Science to Stakeholders and Communities


By Jannik Schultner

Taking back the results of our social-ecological research to stakeholders and communities is key to making our science relevant in the real-world. To make an effort beyond putting a policy-relevance section at the end of our publications may seem tedious, but can have massive impact at the level where our science is most urgently needed.

En-route to meeting stakeholders and communities in Ethiopia.

During the past two weeks our research team set out for a trip that focused on outreach and stakeholder engagement in southwestern Ethiopia. We wanted to feed back our past research on food security and biodiversity conservation to stakeholders and communities, which have particularly been involved in a co-creative process that developed future scenarios for the region.

During our current trip, we revisited the regional centre, three local centres and the rural landscapes of our study region. We re-engaged with dozens of stakeholder organizations…

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