Stefan Dullinger

Department of Botany and Biodiversity Research, University of Vienna, Austria.

Stefan Dullinger is Professor of Vegetation Science at the University of Vienna. His work focuses on understanding and predicting the effects of human driven environmental change on the biogeography and biodiversity of plants, but also of other taxonomic groups, at local to global scales. He research uses field data and experimental methods as well as macroecological analyses and modelling approaches. Since his PhD, most of his studies have been concentrated on mountain ecosystems, particularly those of the European Alps. In addition, he is interested in the ecology of biological invasions and the development of methods to analyse and forecast the spread of invasive species.

Stephan Hättenschwiler

Centre of Evolutionary and Functional Ecology (CEFE), CNRS, University of Montpellier, France

Stephan Hättenschwiler studied at the University of Basel, Switzerland, for a master in Biology and a PhD in physiological ecology with a thesis on the effects of increasing atmospheric CO2 concentration on forest ecosystems. After postdoctoral fellowships at the Department of Biology at Stanford University and at the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of Basel he was appointed on a CNRS position at the Centre of Evolutionary and Functional Ecology (CEFE) in Montpellier, France, where he heads the department of “Functional Ecology” since 2012. S. Hättenschwiler kept a broad interest in various areas of ecology with a focus on global change ecology and ecosystems ecology. His recent work is on plant litter decomposition and biogeochemical cycling in a variety of ecosystems including Amazonian and Mediterranean forests. He has a particular interest in the understanding of the relationships between above- and belowground biodiversity and ecosystem functioning and how it is influenced by climate change.

Keynote title

Biodiversity and soil organic matter

Abstract ...
Soil organic matter (SOM) received increasing attention as a critical component in the global carbon (C) cycle and how it is affected with ongoing global change. Considerable recent progress in the understanding of factors controlling SOM dynamics and its stabilization identified a key role for microbial uptake and transformation of C compounds. How the diversity of microorganisms, and other soil organisms more generally, and their interactions with plants influence the storage and turnover of SOM, however, is not well known. Conceptual and quantitative models continue to treat the tremendous diversity of soil organisms as black box. While this approach is operationally convenient, it neglects fundamental ecological processes such as competition, facilitation and complementarity among the diverse soil organisms, which depend on SOM as single basic resource for their energy and - to a lesser extent - nutrient requirements. This presentation attempts to highlight how biodiversity might influence SOM dynamics and ultimately affect soil C stabilization beyond microbial transformation of organic molecules. Three aspects of biodiversity will be considered more specifically: 1) the diversity of plant-derived organic compounds, 2) the diversity of soil organisms, and 3) the diversity of plant root structure and function in association with their symbionts. I will argue that biodiversity has a role to play in SOM dynamics and in the persistence of soil C. However, quantifying such biodiversity effects for the long-term soil C balance remains difficult, and their conceptual and operational integration in existing or new models is challenging. Tighter collaborations across disciplines, and closer interactions between ecologists and soil scientists in particular, are the way forward to foster new ideas about how to quantify and integrate the contribution of soil biodiversity in SOM dynamics.

Claudio Gratton

Department of Entomology, Professor, University of Wisconsin, USA

Dr. Gratton has been on the faculty in the Entomology department at the University of Wisconsin, Madison since 2003. His research group works broadly on the landscape ecology of arthropod food webs in agricultural landscapes. Their research has examined the role of unmanaged “non-crop” lands in the agricultural matrix and their effects on the abundance and diversity of beneficial insects including predators and pollinators and their effect on the provisioning of ecosystem services in agricultural habitats. Recent work in bioenergy landscapes has been as part of the sustainability team of the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC). Research in the lab looking at the linkages between ecosystems also extends to examining the relationships between lakes and streams and the adjacent terrestrial landscapes and the role of aquatic insects in creating those linkages. Recently, he has been part of bee and butterfly conservation efforts in the state.

Dr. Gratton received his BS in Biology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (1991) and his PhD in Entomology from the University of California – Berkeley (1997). At UW he teaches courses in Basic and Applied Insect Ecology, Agroecology, Field Ecology, and Multivariate Methods in Ecological research. He is a current Associate Editor of Ecological Applications. He is a recipient of the Vilas Research Fellows award (2017), and is a Stanford-Woods Institute Aldo Leopold Leadership Program Fellow (2013).

Tentative Title: “Can we design sustainable bioenergy landscapes? Balancing our needs for production and biodiversity”

Keynote title

Can we design sustainable bioenergy landscapes? Balancing our needs for production and biodiversity

Abstract ...
Increasing demand for food, and now fuel, have put pressure on our agricultural lands. In response, the way we manage our lands is continuing to change land use and land cover with significant biological and ecosystem-level consequences. In the upper Midwest of the United Staes, these changes have resulted in the “simplification” of the agricultural landscape, that is the removal of natural and semi-natural areas in the landscape and the increase in monocultures of annual crops. These changes affect more than mere aesthetics. Landscape simplification is typically associated with a decrease in species richness and an increase in crop pest abundance. The consequences of these changes are felt by growers who apply more pesticides in landscapes dominated by annual cropland. The question, then, is can we balance our needs for agricultural production (both food and fuel) in a way that supports other ecosystem services on which we as humans depend?

Our work as part of the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center has explored how management and changes of the landscape in response to bioenergy agriculture affects critical ecosystem services, including productivity, pollination, and biological control. Inevitably these services tradeoff and understanding their magnitudes and directions will be a key to designing “custom” multifunctional landscapes that include bioenergy crops. Additionally, we have explored ways to make the science behind these relationships part of discussions in landuse planning by developing decision support tools that illustrate tradeoffs among ecosystem service in agricultural landscapes.

Nina Buchmann

Department of Environmental Systems Science, Institute of Agricultural Sciences at ETH Zurich, Switzerland.

Nina Buchmann (born 1965) studied Geoecology in Bayreuth, Germany, where she also received her doctoral degree. As early as for her Diploma and doctoral theses, she focused on the process- and system-oriented understanding of terrestrial ecosystems, at the time, nutrient and nitrogen dynamics in forests. During three years as an Alexander-von-Humboldt fellow at the University of Utah, USA, she continued working with stable isotopes, i.e., carbon isotope applications to understand the carbon dynamics in forest and agricultural ecosystems. After finishing her Habilitation in botany in 1999, she continued as an ecosystem ecologist with her own research group at the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in Jena, Germany. She expanded into a new research field, i.e., biodiversity-ecosystem functioning and ecosystem services in grasslands, working in managed as well as in experimental grasslands such as the Jena Experiment. Since 2003, she is full Professor of Grassland Sciences at ETH Zurich. Her main research topics include (1) plant ecophysiology and ecosystem biogeochemistry, (2) biospheric-atmospheric greenhouse gas (CO2, H2O, CH4, N2O) exchange of forests, grasslands and croplands in response to climatic conditions and management regimes, and (3) mechanisms underlying biodiversity-ecosystem services relationships in grasslands. More recently, she also got interested in the economic assessment of ecosystem services provided by grasslands. Over the last 20 years, she served on many committees dealing with strategic development, recruitment and evaluation, as well as funding decisions. She has contributed as PI and workpackage leader to many international projects, chaired two large European programs on stable isotope applications, and now runs with her group the Swiss FluxNet, a network with six flux towers across Switzerland. She has authored more than 240 peer-reviewed journal papers, supervised more than 50 doctoral students, and worked with almost 30 postdocs and senior scientists. In 2007, she received the ETH Zurich award "Das Goldene Dreirad" (The Golden Tricycle) for the most family and staff friendly leader at ETH Zurich, and became member of the German National Academy of Sciences.

Keynote title

Grassland ecology and sustainable management, friends or foes?

Abstract ...
While grassland ecologists address fundamental research questions, motivated by highly relevant global challenges like climate change and biodiversity loss, grassland managers are confronted with exactly those challenges, e.g. increasingly frequent extreme events and changes in species composition. Moreover, both aim towards sustainable grassland management, also demanded by consumers and policy-makers alike. So the questions arise, how can managers learn from ecologists, how can ecologists learn from managers?

Ecosystem services, provided by grassland ecosystems and highly relevant for both communities, represent a common denominator for joint learning activities. High quality forage production for livestock and erosion control are intimately linked to species traits and community composition. Climate regulation and water purification clearly depend on management activities which in turn are driven by grassland composition and environmental site conditions. How these services are affected by climate change, but also to what extend grasslands contribute to climate change or can actually used to mitigate it, are important research but also management questions. Resistance and resilience of grasslands are of main concern to grassland ecologists and managers.

Various networks and experiments with both intensively as well as extensively managed grasslands will be used to integrate both perspectives on grasslands. Drought simulations across elevational gradients, biodiversity experiments for identifiying multifunctionality in grasslands, and ecosystem flux measurements for assessing ecosystem vulnerability but also for quantifying carbon sequestration and N2O mitigation potentials together provide crucial and beneficial insights to inform sustainable.

Pedro Beja

CIBIO – Research Centre in Biodiversity and Genetic Resources, University of Porto, Portugal

Pedro Beja (born 1965) studied Biology at the University of Lisbon, and received a PhD in Zoology from the University of Aberdeen (1996). After completing his PhD, he worked as wildlife manager at the Portuguese Institute of Nature Conservation (1996-1998), as Assistant Professor at the University of Algarve (1998-2001), as researcher and environmental consultant at the private company ERENA (2001-2009), and as researcher at CIBIO – Research Centre in Biodiversity and Genetic Resources (2009-present). Currently he his Research Professor and Vice-Director of CIBIO, where he holds the EDP Biodiversity Chair (since 2012), and is the coordinator of a research group on Applied Population and Community Ecology. His main research interests are related to the conservation of biodiversity in human-dominated landscapes, including agricultural, forest and freshwater systems, with a special attention to the actual application of conservation research. His research has mainly been carried out in Mediterranean ecosystems, but he also developed studies in Africa and South America. Recently he is increasingly interested the use of DNA Metabarcoding to explore research questions related to environmental monitoring, species-interactions, and the responses to anthropogenic stressors of highly-diverse arthropod communities.

Keynote title

Barcoding and metabarcoding: exploring exciting new opportunities in ecology

Abstract ...
The advent of ever more powerful DNA sequencing technology has opened up possibilities in the biological sciences that were unimaginable just a decade ago. The field of ecology is no exception, with DNA barcoding in combination with high-throughput sequencing (metabarcoding) generating unprecedented capacity to describe complex ecological patterns and processes. However, mainstreaming these new tools in ecological research has remained relatively slow, mainly because they still involve a range of conceptual, methodological and technical challenges. Here I provide an ecologists’ perspective to barcoding and metabarcoding, using the experience gained at my lab to illustrate the power and some limitations of these molecular tools. First, I show the importance of building comprehensive barcode reference collections to achieve ecologically meaningful taxonomic identifications. This is challenging, but by working closely with taxonomists we have been able to assemble a collection of >1500 arthropod species, which helped detecting new exotic species, solving some taxonomic problems, and highlighting many others that warrant further investigation. Second, I discuss the need to optimise field, lab and bioinformatics pipelines in relation to the specific research questions of ecologists. The considerable efforts required to meet this general goal are illustrated through case studies assessing impacts of biological and technical replication on metabarcoding results, testing multi-marker approaches to overcome primer biases, and developing procedures for non-destructive metabarcoding of invertebrate bulk samples. Third, I present some practical applications, showing how the high taxonomic resolution achieved through metabarcoding can provide major insights on biotic interactions and on community assembly of nocturnal arthropods in agroecosystems. Finally, I take a look into extant and oncoming technological developments that will provide further opportunities to ecological research.

Kerry Naish

School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, USA

Kerry is a Professor in evolutionary and conservation genetics at the University of Washington. Her work is aimed at studying population responses to environmental change in aquatic species, and informing conservation actions such as reintroductions and supportive breeding. As such, her group uses a combination of molecular genomics, quantitative genetics, and field studies. Her current research in Pacific salmonids is aimed at elucidating the dynamics of disease resistance in wild and supplemented populations, in exploring the use of gene flow in preventing divergence in supportive breeding programs, and in describing eco-evolutionary processes governing population size in natural systems. She is also investigating effective restoration strategies in eelgrass, and the use of pteropods as early indicators of the effects of ocean acidification. She is currently an Associate Editor for Evolutionary Applications and is serving on a National Research Council panel on coral reef restoration.

Keynote title

Managing genetic variation and adaptability in populations: considerations from conservation genomics in salmonids

Abstract ...
A central goal in conservation and restoration activities is to maintain genetic variation so that populations can adapt to ongoing environmental and anthropogenic change. However, judging when and how to make an intervention is challenging, because the actions themselves might result in unintended changes to a population’s genetic variability. Pacific salmon along the West Coast of North America serve as examples of the outcomes of such actions, because they are subject to extensive efforts to rebuild populations using approaches such as captive breeding and restoration, while also supporting harvest activities. In these systems, synergistic partnerships between geneticists and practitioners have focused on addressing and assessing appropriate responses. In doing so, novel genomic approaches have improved the power to evaluate best practices. Here, the implementation of these methodologies will be reviewed, and their potential in informing adaptive management within a decision-making framework will be explored. Specifically, I will use case studies to illustrate their use in the protection of vulnerable populations during harvest, and to examine the fitness of captive-reared individuals released into the wild. Proactive approaches aimed at determining “best case” versus “worst case” scenarios in captive rearing and restoration will be evaluated, especially where there are reduced options for population recovery. Finally, genomic based studies on natural populations are increasingly revealing loci of large effect on phenotypic traits; their role in designating units for protection will be discussed. Creative integration of genomics with solutions-driven research has significant capacity to contribute to conservation, and its continued integration into management decisions will support ongoing efforts to restore and maintain population health.