TCD Hosts Conference on Integrating Biodiversity Research, Policy and Practice
Jul 03, 2012
Trinity College Dublin recently hosted a conference on the integration of biodiversity research, policy and practice that saw the culmination of a cross-institutional research project, SIMBIOSYS, including TCD, UCC, UCD and NUIG. The project aims to inform national policy in this area.
Biodiversity and associated ecosystem services are fundamental to humanity but are threatened by human activity in a range of sectors. The SIMBIOSYS project set out to quantify the impact of key sectoral activities in Ireland such as cultivation of bioenergy crops, road landscaping and aquaculture on genetic, species and landscape biodiversity and the ecosystem services they provide.
“As the Rio+20 Earth Summit this week reminds us, halting the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services is a key challenge to the future sustainable economic and social development and environmental protection. The SIMBIOSYS Project contributed to tackling this challenge by studying the impact of human activity in key expanding sectors in Ireland,” explained TCD Senior Lecturer in Botany, Dr Jane Stout.
“Overall the study has confirmed the positive relationship between species richness and the delivery of ecosystem services, and found this is maintained across land use types. For example, if the diversity of predatory ground beetles and pollinating insects in farmland increases, so does the potential for natural pest control and pollination services. In addition, different anthropogenic pressures and management approaches benefit different aspects of biodiversity and the services that are delivered. “
Commenting on the key findings of SIMBIOSYS, Dr Stout continued: “We demonstrated that Pacific oysters have now formed some well established feral populations on the Irish coast and documented a range of impacts on native ecosystems, including negative effects on a protected habitat-forming species, the honeycomb worm Sabellaria alveolata, and modifications to a number of ecosystem processes. The project has also identified some ‘win-win’ situations where both ecosystem health and socioeconomic outputs can be maximised. For example, in general, road landscaping treatments that result in the greatest flowering plant species richness also require the lowest inputs and are, therefore, more sustainable in the long-term; using triploid oysters in aquaculture can reduce the risk of invasion and thus impacts on coastal ecosystems, and they also grow more quickly; and improving miscanthus crop yields has both an economic benefit but also increases rates of Carbon sequestration. These findings are crucial for a sustainable future.”
The conference’s objective was to disseminate key results of the SIMBIOSYS Project to participants from the scientific research community, stakeholders, decision makers, and the interested public. The meeting kicked off with a keynote address by Professor Kathy Willis from the University of Oxford who spoke on innovative tools, technologies and datasets to sustain biodiversity in the face of multiple threats, including climate change. The SIMBIOSYS project team outlined their work on biodiversity and ecosystem processes and functions that deliver ecosystem services, and how these are affected by anthropogenic activities in three key expanding sectors in Ireland today: energy crop cultivation, road development and aquaculture. Discussions focused on the sustainability of these sectors were led by a panel encouraging interactions between researchers, stakeholders and policy makers.
The SIMBIOSYS project has been a four and a half year research effort, funded by the Environmental Protection Agency, involving six leading academics in four institutions, six PhD students, 11 research assistants at graduate and postdoctoral level, more than 20 MSc and undergraduate students and many other academic collaborators, both in Ireland and overseas.
The project recommends that to increase the delivery of ecosystem services, specific policy actions to enhance biodiversity are required. Moreover, appropriate management can be specifically implemented to maximise the delivery of particular ecosystem services in any given context. Thus biodiversity and society can both benefit.
The SIMBIOSYS Project was funded by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).