The annual Dutch ecology conference is being held over two days at the in “remote” Lunteren and I am pleased to be able to attend all of the conference this year. The conference was kicked off this morning with a recognition that this year is 150 years since the birth of ecology as a science (Haeckel, 1866). The opening two keynotes focused on aspects of ecology which have sometimes been overlooked firstly, parasitism (Peter Hudson, Penn State University) and secondly, immunology (Irene Tieleman, University of Groningen). Following these I focused on just two sessions in the morning “linking diversity to function”, and in the afternoon “ecosystem cascades”. From the range of excellent talks in the sessions I have picked one from each as my favourite:
- Masha van der Sande (Wageningen University) The role of biodiversity and environment on productivity in tropical forests; evidence across scales
By examining long-term tropical forest monitoring data van der Sande demonstrated that through time ecosystem traits changed significantly. She hypothesised that the lack of stability in ecosystem traits was due to past disturbance; although it is unclear what caused this disturbance (climate or humans), or when it occurred.
- Dries Kuijper (Mammal Research Institute, Poland) Landscapes of fear in Europe: Wolves and humans shaping ungulate top-down effects
By tracking Wolf pack distributions in the Bialowieza forest (Poland) Kuijper showed that ungulates avoided Wolf pack “core areas” for fear of predation, that the exclusion of ungulates lead to reduced browsing of the vegetation, and so consequently forests regenerated faster in Wolf pack core areas.
The evening lecture was given by Bart Knols (in2care) who gave an impassioned talk on the importance of communicating science beyond the academic sphere. Arguing that now is the time for ecologists to have an influence on policy making, politics and business, as well as showing us how he has done this.