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Present-day ecology encompasses an impressive range of approaches, from satellite imagery to sediments, mathematical modelling to citizen science; all provide unique insights into ecosystem dynamics and functioning. Given the challenges associated with the projected environmental changes in the 21st century, there is an urgent need for ecologists to integrate these approaches and to translate ecological understanding into effective landscape management.

The second conference of the Norwegian Ecological Society will address these issues. Talks will be focussed on characterising past, present and future ecological dynamics, identifying key drivers of change, and using the knowledge gained from these studies for applied ecology and conservation.

There is also an open session, where any talks that do not fit one of the three themes below will be presented.

Global Ecology in the Anthropocene

The concept of the Anthropocene recognizes that human activity has transformed many of the Earth's ecosystems on a global scale through the combined processes of habitat change, climate change, invasions, pollution, and over-exploitation (Crutzen & Stoermer, 2000). This presents new challenges, questions and responsibilities for ecological science, including how different stressors interact to influence biotic dynamics, and the impacts that these stressors can have on the delivery of key ecosystem services. A key challenge for ecologists is to understand how different stressors influence biotic dynamics, and the impacts that these stressors can have on the delivery of key ecosystem services .

For this session we encourage talks based on monitoring and measurement of populations, species and ecosystems in human landscapes. Important questions to be covered include: How extensive are recent ecosystem responses compared to past dynamics? What methods can we use to identify critical thresholds beyond which irreversible change can occur? A particular focus will be to identify the drivers of change across different timescales (i.e. sub-annual-millennial) and to understand how different stressors interact to influence ecosystem functioning in a variety of settings.

Keynote: Jens-Christian Svenning
Jens-Christian Svenning is Professor of Biology at Aarhus University. His specialities are ecoinformatics, macroecology, global change biology, climate change impacts, and community ecology. He is an eager participant in the public debate, especially interested in nature management and the debate concerning the coexistence of humans and nature. With 100 publications, more than 6000 citations and a number of awards and honours including the EliteForsk Award in 2014, we can with certainty say that Svenning is one of the most prominent ecologists in our part of the world.
Here is the abstract for Jens-Christian's keynote presentation: Human activities increasingly dominate the Earth system, taking up space, using the land and the species, changing the atmosphere and the climate, and blending long isolated floras and faunas. A predominant consequence throughout history has been dramatic losses of species diversity and natural ecosystems. With increasing intensities in all these Anthropocene drivers looming in the future such losses are likely to continue. Still, the Anthropocene also brings new possibilities and not all changes need be losses. Here, I will first consider prehistoric and historical human-driven dynamics, their legacies and the novel Anthropocene opportunities in the context of two biological cases, megafaunas and forests. Rapid and strong climate change is likely to characterize the coming decades and centuries, and as the second part of my presentation I will discuss the likely impacts on biodiversity and ecosystems and what may be possible as adaptive responses by people and society to sustain biodiversity and ecosystem services. Finally, I provide some thoughts on the general conceptual and ethical challenges that biodiversity conservation and nature management in the Anthropocene entail, and how interdisciplinary perspectives may help address these.

Steering committee: Kine Blom, Sigrid Bruvoll, Åshild Idsø

Predictive Ecology: Past, present and future

Predictive ecology uses statistical and process-based models to test ecological theories and describe underlying ecological patterns from the present and the past. Such models also provide the only way to forecast future biotic responses to environmental change, but finding ways to combine data and models remains a major challenge.

For this session we encourage ecologists using models to make predictions about ecological dynamics in the past, present and future. A key focus will be on how the uncertainties associated with ecological datasets can be characterised.

Keynote: Frede Thingstad
Frede Thingstad is a Professor at the University of Bergen specialising in the microbiology of pelagic ecosystems. He is an ISI "Highly Cited" researcher with over 100 publications and recipient of an ERC Advanced Grant.
Here is the abstract for Frede's keynote presentation: Dissolved nutrients can enter the pelagic food web through phytoplankton varying greatly in cell size, or through heterotrophic prokaryotes. The corresponding pathways through the microbial food web to metazoans involve different functional groups, occur at different characteristic time scales, and have different biogeochemical consequences. Developing a predictive ability for these responses in the microbial food web is thus a central element in predicting the ocean’s responses to anthrophogenic influence and global change. Experience shows, however, that similar experimental perturbations can evoke very different pathways, presumably rooted in differences in the state of the ecosystem present at startup. Responses observed in one experiment can therefore not be directly used to predict the next, but requires some kind of mathematical model that allows description of the initial state, the perturbation and the trophic interactions of the microbial food web. I describe the background for such a model and how it has developed to its present state through a series of mesocosm experiments.

Steering committee: Kjetil Fossheim, Siri Haugum, Lise Tingstad

Applied ecology and conservation in the 21st century

Successful conservation and management of ecosystems in the 21st century needs to be grounded as much in ecological science as in the appropriate societal context. This means difficult decisions need to be made regarding the 'value' of ecological systems, often with imperfect knowledge and imperfect datasets. This is particularly the case for monitoring and measuring biodiversity beyond protected areas, for which basic ecological information such as species presence remains poorly understood.

This session will address novel techniques and approaches for applied ecology and conservation. How can ecological understanding be effectively used and communicated for landscape management? Which innovative techniques are the most effective for engaging local communities but resolving conflicts between different stakeholders? Specific focus will also be given to new techniques for biodiversity monitoring, including, for example, citizen science datasets; or for new methods of measuring and mapping key ecosystem services.

Keynote: Stein Byrkjeland, Deputy Director for Environmental Protection, Hordaland County Governor's administration.
With a career in the business of conservation challenges, Stein Byrkjeland has experienced firsthand many of the current issues facing conservation ecology. Working in the County Governor’s administration (Fylkesmannen) in Hordaland and in Rogaland, he has worked on Hardangervidda, capercaillie, biodiversity conservation in general and on management of cultural ecosystems. Stein has also worked for Statskog (a government-owned land management agency) and with the Norwegian Ornithological Society where he has a special interest in seabirds. In his talk, he will give many interesting examples of how close collaboration between researchers and practitioners has led to the introduction of novel techniques for nature management.

Steering committee: Marie Løvik, Bahar Mosfar, Sylvelin Tellnes

Open Session

This session is for exciting new results or interesting ideas which do not fit in the three main topics.

Keynote: Sigrunn Eliassen
Sigrunn Eliassen is a rising star of behavioural ecology and evolution. A researcher at UiB's Department of Biology, Sigrunn leads projects on rather eye-catching subjects, particularly focussing on how female infidelity may boost male co-operation.
Here is the abstract for Sigrunn's keynote presentation on extra-pair mating and the evolution of cooperative neighbourhoods: Our understanding of avian mating systems was completely overturned by the invention of molecular techniques and paternity analysis, revealing that the majority of bird species, once thought to be monogamous, were instead genetically polyandrous. Females commonly solicit copulations with males other than their paired mate, but the adaptive reason has been elusive. Using a theoretical model I will argue that the key driver in the evolution of extra-pair mating lies in the distribution of a male's potential paternity across nests. When a male gains interest in several neighbouring families, this creates incentives for him to cooperate with other males to produce public goods that in turn benefit females. In the context of socially monogamous birds, such cooperative behaviours may include reduction in territorial or aggressive interactions between neighbours, resource sharing during offspring rearing or collective behaviours to discourage predators. Our theory represents a shift in focus from genetic effects of extra-pair mating to the ecological consequences of predation and food limitation, which may have profound effects on reproductive success in wild populations. The model predicts that extra-pair sires are usually close neighbours, that extra-pair paternity is more common in short-lived species, and that different reproductive interests cause males to cooperate more toward public goods than females – patterns which are all commonly observed in field studies. I will discuss how our perspective adds to the broader goal of understanding the evolution of cooperation among non-related individuals and the emergence of complex societies in species including our own.

Steering committee: Amy Eycott, Aud Halbritter

 
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