Friday the 5th of June is the United Nations World Environment Day and the theme for 2020 is biodiversity. In recognition of this, we have brought together a selection of our case studies around this topic. Below you can read more about how our researchers are exploring how to make ecosystems more resilient, have established a genetic scorecard for measuring genetic diversity, developed a suite of environmental indicators to monitor ecosystem health and investigated which values are most relevant to protecting biodiversity in Scotland.
Learning By Doing: Understanding and Managing for Ecological Resilience
Our natural environment is facing threats from a range of environmental drivers, including climate change, invasive non-native species, novel pests and diseases, over-exploitation, and pollution. It is difficult to predict exactly how nature will respond to these drivers and to tailor management solutions precisely to each threat. An alternative approach is to try to understand what makes species and ecosystems generally more resilient, and to develop management plans which aim to enhance resilience. In this short article, Dr Rob Brooker (and colleagues) explains his work trying to understand the underlying processes and properties that make ecosystems resilient, to exploring how this knowledge might be implemented in site management planning to help increase the resilience of our natural heritage, and helping conserve nature despite the rapidly-changing environment in which we are currently living.
Developing a"Genetic Scorecard": A World-first for Scotland
The UK, and Scotland, have signed up to several international conventions relating to the conservation of nature. One of the most significant of these is the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The CBD is concerned with the conservation of all the living organisms and, at a meeting in 2010 in Nagoya, Japan, they established a Strategic Plan for 2011-2020 with twenty global Aichi targets. Aichi Target thirteen (T13) focuses on the conservation of genetic diversity. Genetic diversity is a generic term for differences within species because of variations in their DNA. The most challenging aspect of T13 is accounting for the category of ‘other species of socio-economic importance’ in Scotland, the UK or elsewhere. A SEFARI Gateway Think Tank was created to bring together expertise to look at an approach for addressing Target 13.
Environmental Indicators: Nature Showing Us the Bigger Picture
The Scottish Government is currently responding to the multitude of grand and complex environmental challenges. But how do we know if these responses, or the money spent on delivering them, are having the desired effect? Having a robust suite of environmental quantitative measures, or indicators, is vital when trying to deliver key policy targets. Our work has focussed in particular on two sets of indicators, Ecosystem Health Indicators and the Natural Capital Asset Index. For the former, we have used bryophytes (i.e. mosses and liverworts) to develop new indicators to monitor ecosystem health, in support of Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH). These indicators fill a gap by providing measures that are responsive to rapid environmental change and demonstrate how we can take long-running datasets and use them in a novel way to assess the health of our ecosystems. The latter is a unique approach, and our work has helped to strengthen and promote it.
How can we safeguard biodiversity through values and governance?
Despite many initiatives to safeguard biodiversity, recent analyses and reports show that biodiversity continues to decline at the global level. To change this situation requires appropriate governance mechanisms. Governance is the process of making and applying rules and procedures that (seek to) influence motivations and behaviours. As such, biodiversity governance can be seen as a reflection of particular sets of values that determine what to conserve and where, what to regard as acceptable ways of using and managing land and biodiversity, and how to frame and negotiate trade-offs. Our researchers have investigated which values are most relevant to protecting biodiversity in Scotland and what characterizes good governance mechanisms.