Vortragsreihe Ökologie und Umweltforschung SS 2012

Thursday 12:00-13:30 H 12, NW I

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Dr. Nathalie Pettorelli
Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London, United Kingdom (Homepage)
Thursday, 10.05.2012 :

From Roe Deer to Satellites and Vulnerability Assessments: Scaling up Difficulties or Downsizing Complexity?

As the impacts of human activities increase in both magnitude and extent, biodiversity is under increasing pressure. Habitats available to wildlife have undergone dramatic modifications, and significant biodiversity has already been lost over modern times, while we are yet to experience the full impacts of anthropogenic climate change. Decline in biodiversity has direct detrimental impacts on ecosystems’ structures and functions as well as on human well being, particularly for the world’s most marginalised and impoverished communities. Biodiversity indeed provides many products - often plants, animals, and fungi - that directly contribute to incomes and livelihoods. Biodiversity also provides genetic resources for the pharmaceutical industry, which can be key in maintaining human health, while the growth of nature tourism has meant that biodiversity conservation has become a major contributor to many national economies, including some of the world’s poorest countries. As well as delivering these ecosystem services, biodiversity underpins the functioning of ecosystems, and hence the delivery of services such as access to fresh water and climate regulation. Halting the loss of biodiversity is thus a societal, economic, ethical, and ecological priority. To halt these recent dramatic declines in biodiversity, one needs, among other things, to (a) measure changes in biodiversity at various spatial and temporal scales to identify areas experiencing the highest rates of loss, and (b) identify the mechanisms underpinning the observed changes; so that efficient mitigation strategies can be designed. Although there is no strict consensus on how to measure biodiversity and biodiversity loss, the species level stands up among other biological units in the study of biodiversity at both global and regional scales. In mammals for instance, the focus on the species level has allowed us to determine particular traits which make organisms more vulnerable to extinction and to explore how patterns of species decline vary according to different threats. Species-focused conservation strategies alone, however, may overlook threats operating at the population scale, which can generate significant bottom-up impacts on biodiversity compromising the optimal provision of ecological goods and other ecosystem services to human societies. Population losses are indeed an early warning of species extinction and integrative approaches relating species and populations have been highlighted as being urgently needed to improve the efficiency of conservation efforts and the maintenance of biodiversity. From this, it is clear that effective biodiversity loss mitigation strategies rely on our ability to understand and appreciate the relative importance of processes that may operate at very different scales. In this talk, I will discuss the challenges associated with accessing such a level of understanding, and highlight some of the issues currently faced by conservation biologists.

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