Two Astron Scientists, Renee-Claire Hartley and Sharyn Moore, attended the 27th International Congress for Conservation Biology and the 4th European Congress for Conservation Biology at Le Corum in Montpellier, France between 2 and 6 August. The Society for Conservation Biology hosted the congress which attracted 2,000 participants from 98 countries. There were 900 talks presented aligning with the congress theme of “Mission Biodiversity: Choosing New Paths for Conservation”.
Three important trends for environmental management emerged from the congress. Renee and Sharyn discuss these below.
1. Innovation: the key to achieving conservation goals with decreasing budgets
Many presentations emphasised the need to find innovative ways to achieve conservation and management objectives, with a focus on setting goals and increasing cost efficiencies. It’s recognised that the rate at which ecosystems are changing is now greater than ever before and perhaps the traditional methods are not as effective as they used to be. This means we need to innovate and cooperate more so that we can pool together increased resources to achieve the desired outcomes. Sharyn said “there is a growing focus on integrating a wide range of sectors to initiate an interdisciplinary approach to conservation and management. This includes the social sciences, economics and marketing fields.”
2. Local communities: tapping into an underutilised source of knowledge and support
There was a focus on behavioural change, local community engagement and education at the conference. By understanding and incorporating the local views into the planning process, we can achieve goals that benefit both the environment and society. The key to this is awareness and education to encourage communities to connect with their local environment and participate in decisions that affect how the environment is managed. Sharyn says “setting and achieving goals often means compromise from all stakeholders."
3. Remote sensing: an increasingly powerful tool for monitoring and understanding ecosystems
For monitoring and management, it was clear that remote sensing is an incredibly powerful, cost-effective and readily accessible tool. It’s being used to track the progress of Natura 2000, the European nature and biodiversity policy that extends across 27 countries. Remote sensing can be used to monitor changes in the landscape, whether it be species composition, land degradation, grazing, fire, weeds or habitat quality. However, one of the challenges with remote sensing is handling and disseminating the huge volumes of data that are generated on a daily basis. Renee says “Data management and sharing is becoming more achievable with progress in user-friendly online systems such as the IUCN Conservation Databases, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility and Earth Data. This information can help identify priorities and direct the allocation of scarce resources. Astron is looking to facilitate a local solution in this area by working with the team at emapper; to develop an environmental information management system that has particular relevance for Western Australia.”
In summary, the conference represented an important event that brought together the global science community to share knowledge and ideas for conservation and management. Sharyn says “at an international congress, it was great to see so many Australians there. It shows that we are motivated to be a key player in the scientific community and promote the work that is happening in Australia.”