Student Conference on Conservation Science

Plenaries 2022

Ecological intensification and diversification approaches to promote biodiversity-friendly agriculture

Ingo Grass

Land use change is the main cause of terrestrial biodiversity loss. In particular, intensive conventional agriculture threatens biodiversity. Ecological intensification and agricultural diversification have been proposed as alternatives to conventional intensification to increase agricultural production and promote agrobiodiversity. While conventional intensification relies on anthropogenic inputs (e.g., pesticides), ecological intensification uses ecosystem processes associated with biodiversity (e.g., natural biocontrol) to increase agricultural productivity, which often requires diversification of the agricultural production system. However, whether and to what extent ecological intensification and diversification can replace conventional agriculture is still largely unknown. In my talk, I will draw on regional and global studies of ecological intensification and agricultural diversification in temperate and tropical landscapes and attempt to answer some of the key questions about their implementation. How can agricultural diversification be implemented to promote biodiversity in agricultural landscapes? Is ecological intensification capable of replacing conventional farming practices? What kinds of trade-offs and structural barriers hinder the adoption of ecological intensification and diversification practices in agriculture?


Nature conservation as a transdisciplinary adventure: insights from Romania

Tibor Hartel

Nature conservation in human shaped landscapes faces multiple challenges. These challenges are related to the ontological and epistemological diversity linked to the diversity of formal and informal expertizes, interests and power relations existing at the level of the society. This complex architecture of knowledge systems and intentionality around nature and its values can maniphest through two archetypical ways: in one hand, it can be a genuine source of conflicts and tensions which represents barriers both towards the inclusion of nature conservation in the societal goals and the sustainability of nature conservation actions. On the other hand, it can represent a novel way of generating knowledge and collaborative partnerships which can serve as fertile ground for reconciling nature conservation and economic goals. While the status quo is still the first archetype, the second appears as an emergent system property, as part of transdisciplinarity. In this talk I will provide two study cases for experimenting transdisciplinarity: one is related to large carnivore conservation in the Eastern Carpathians and the second is related to the designation of a peri-urban forest park for biodiversity, ecosystem services and people. My intention is also to encourage the young conservationist generation (to which I also feel that belong) who work is human shaped ecosystems to be open for consideration of human agency as partner and source of inspiration and knowledge for nature conservation.


Ecological restoration of landscapes and habitats: challenges, opportunities and tools

Aveliina Helm

Ecological restoration is among the major tasks of humanity this century. To simultaneously combat biodiversity loss and improve the land-based carbon sinks, we need to carefully safeguard remaining habitats and significantly improve the condition of damaged habitats and landscapes. Ecological restoration is increasingly more embedded in nature conservation and climate policies. For example, during summer of 2022, European Commission is expected to propose a draft of the Nature Restoration Law, that includes binding targets for improving the condition of nature. From 2021 to 2030, the UN Decade on Ecological Restoration aims to prevent, halt and reverse the degradation of ecosystems on every continent and in every ocean. In my talk, I will focus on the challenges and opportunities that we will have during the next decades, when the ecological restoration is expected to become mainstream activity. Do we have the best knowledge available? Is there anything we lack in ecological knowledge, social setting or economic approaches that would hinder the success of approaches? Which tools and approaches do we need to make the ecological restoration a success and bring everyone abroad?

(online presentation)


Range dynamics of alien and threatened native plants in mountains under global change

Lorenzo Marini

In mountain ecosystems, on-going environmental changes are imposing multiple threats to plant populations. Despite a growing body of empirical research on plant redistribution dynamics in mountains, there has been no attempt to test simultaneously the effect of climate and land-use change on the response of threatened, common and alien species along complete elevational gradients. Using several high-resolution distribution datasets of native and alien plants, we could reconstruct the response to global change of c. half of the plant species of the European Alps over the last 30 years (1990 – 2019). Most threatened natives have not been able to track climate warming and have experienced a strong erosion of rear margins. As a result, over the last 30 years, the overall range of threatened natives has contracted. By contrast, alien species have expanded their range by moving upwards at the leading edge at climate change speed. Contrary to previous results and climate change expectations, we showed that the current level of threat was higher for warm- than cold-adapted native species. In addition, the level of threat decreased with increasing species competitive ability to thrive under high-resource environments. These patterns suggest that intensive land-uses might be more important drivers of local extinction than temperature warming, at least in the short-term. Opposite to the conclusions of similar studies from the European Alps, the comprehensive sampling in this dataset including threatened species showed that native plants at low elevations are those more at risk of local extinction, probably due to the compounded effect of climate warming and land use change.