Student Conference on Conservation Science

Plenaries 2020

Bats and their pathogens: How worried should we be?

Julie Teresa Shapiro 

Zoonotic diseases pose a threat to global public health: 61% of all human diseases are zoonotic. Over 70% of these originate in wildlife, accounting for three quarters of emerging infectious diseases since 2000.Among wildlife species, bats have received outsized attention for being potential sources of several high-profile zoonotic diseases, such as Ebola to COVID-19. However, zoonotic disease spillover is an inherently complex process and the exact path of transmission from bats to humans is often unknown. Despite the important ecosystem services they provide, bats are still misunderstood and even persecuted; fears of disease may further exacerbate these threats. In this presentation, we will look at the ecology and transmission potential of several different types of bat-borne pathogens. We will also consider the importance of balancing research (and messaging) of disease risk with the important ecosystem functions and services bats provide.


The potential of floodplain restoration in large rivers

Thomas Hein, Florian Borgwardt, Elisabeth Bondar-Kunze, Daniel Trauner, Martin Tschikof, Andrea Funk

Large rivers with their floodplains are biodiversity hotspots and a key component in global matter cycles providing at the same time a multitude of ecosystem services that are vital for human societies. As many large rivers in the world, the Danube River is also by multiple human activities like navigation, hydropower, urban development or agriculture, making river-floodplain systems to one of the most threatened ecosystems worldwide. Thus, conservation and restoration of their biodiversity and ecosystem service provisioning is an important task, but challenging because of the diversity of human activities and policy targets (including WFD, Habitats and Birds Directive, Flood Risk Directive, Biodiversity Strategy or Green Infrastructure Strategy), scarcity of data compared to the complexity of the systems, heterogeneity of environmental problems and strong differences in socio-economic conditions along the Danube. Therefore, in this presentation we provide an overview on the status of Danubian floodplains, their biodiversity and their strategic importance at larger whole river network scales and present examples how combined assessment approaches for biodiversity and ecosystem services could support restoration planning and furthermore, the effect of implemented restoration measures on these floodplain properties. In future emerging issues such as climate change and invasive non-native species will need careful consideration in ecosystem management of floodplains to minimize unintended effects.


Urban bees

Hajnalka Szentgyörgyi, PhD, Institut of Botany, Jagiellonian University, Kraków, Poland

Humans change their environment since the dawn of civilization. First, farming activities led to significant changes of the landscape and the natural environment. Next, industrialization and urbanization created numerous unfriendly or even hazardous habitats for a number of organisms. However, lately urban environment is gaining wild life due to growing areas of urban greens, parks, and gardens, but also the lack of pesticides and the prolonged vegetational season compared to the surrounding non-urban habitats often rural-agricultural habitats. Species that are loosing their habitat due to intensive agricultural and industrial activities are finding a new home in urban environment. Among them are pollinators and especially bees. The lecture will describe why cities are becoming more and more bee and pollinator friendly compared to habitats outside the city. The pros and cons of urban habitats will be described, like air pollution or the presence of alien and often invasive species will be discussed. Also, possible solutions helping the creation of pollinator friendly urban habitats will be presented. 


Amphibian ecology and conservation in the Anthropocene: mitigating the effects of urbanisation

Andrew Hamer, Centre for Ecological Research, Balaton Limnological Institute, Tihany, Hungary

Urbanisation is pushing over one third of all amphibian species towards extinction, with population declines and range contractions expected this decade due to the vast expansion of urban areas throughout the world. Amphibians (frogs, toads, newts and salamanders) are regarded as being particularly sensitive to human-related disturbances due primarily to their biphasic life cycle and dependence on connectivity between terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Here, I will discuss the effects of urbanisation on amphibians within a conceptual framework underpinned by three key processes: habitat loss, habitat fragmentation and habitat degradation. This framework can also be applied to a range of animal taxa. I will illustrate how urbanisation impacts amphibian communities using empirical evidence obtained from several research projects in Australia. I conclude by outlining managment practices that should be adopted in urban and urban-affected areas if we are to successfully conserve amphibians and their habitats. I also highlight the need for field-based studies to support the formulation of effective conservation strategies for amphibians and other wetland-dependent species.