A tipping point for ecology?

reblogged from www.innge.net/blog originally posted February 1st 2015

Prediction: 2015 will be a year to remember, but only time will tell if it is for good or for worse. One month into 2015, this post takes a look at some of the major events in ecological science and policy in 2015. This, coincidentally, is a good opportunity to update you on some of the events INNGE is planning for 2015. The preview also aims to present food for reflection on the scope and role of ecological research and ecological societies.


Paris and Baltimore will be among the cities we talk about in 2015.

Paris and Baltimore will be among the cities we talk about in 2015.

A big year: 2015 is another BIG year for anyone interested in the history of ecological science or its translation into policy and action. Back in 2013, the British Ecological Society celebrated 100 years since its founding. In 2015, the Ecological Society of America will be looking back at its experiences of advancing ecological science and awareness over the past 100 years and look ahead to the next 100 years. Beyond celebrations of past and future, in the policy arena 2015 will be, without a doubt, a year that we will talk about for many years to come. Three decisive meetings on development finance, the agreement of Sustainable Development Goals, and finally, the negotiation of a UN climate treaty, could together set the framework for human society on the planet in the next 15 years.

So what can we expect? Will 2015 be remembered for an unambitious climate treaty in Paris and will the Sustainable Development Goals in September increase global sustainability toward 2030? It seems fair to predict that ESA’s centennial celebration in Baltimore, Maryland will be something to remember with fondness, however, it also seems a fair prediction that the policy legacy of 2015 will not be decided until the UNFCCC meeting in Paris is gavelled out sometime between Friday, December 11, and Sunday, December 13.


IPBES kicks off 2015 on a positive note: 2015 has already produced some good news for anyone looking to engage with the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).

  1. At its third plenary meeting in Bonn, Germany, IPBES adopted a so-called stakeholder strategy. This strategy basically aims to make IPBES more inclusive by involving a larger set of institutions and researchers besides those already representing governments.
  2. At the meeting it was also revealed that the very first draft of IPBES assessments on pollinators and scenarios and modelling would be available soon . They can now be accessed via this link
  3. At the meeting, IPBES also decided to initiate a set of regional assessments for Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific, and Europe and Central Asia.
  4. The conceptual framework of IPBES was published in two papers.
  5. The are several initiatives in the planning regarding capacity building, including fellowship programs, but no official announcements regarding these has been made yet as far as I’m aware.

INNGE is planning to step up its involvement with IPBES under the new stakeholder strategy. So stay tuned.




Future Earth early career strategy Future Earth is the international research program for global sustainability and is the platform for many ecologically themed research projects. In 2014, INNGE was heavily involved in Future Earth activities directed toward early career researchers including the young scientist network conference and a strategic research agenda workshop. In 2015, Future Earth is expected to launch an engagement strategy for early career scientists and it could be an avenue for many more ecologists to engage with Future Earth.

Follow the Future Earth blog and the INNGE blog for more news about this initiative during the year.


August: Five year old INNGE attends another centennial: INNGE held its first business meeting as the British Ecological Society turned 100 years in 2013, at the 10th International Ecology Congress. In August, the Ecological Society of America celebrates its 100 years. INNGE will be present and is teaming up with ESA’s student section and early career section with a set of early career events, which altogether at the present state looks something like this:

  1. Mentoring Program (10 students + 10 mentors, registration funding)
  2. Special Session on challenges for early career professional development
  3. Science Speed Dating: Networking for the Early Career Ecologist
  4. Workshop on Diverse Career Pathways
  5. Webinar series on various topics (including careers in ecology)
  6. Workshop on Building a Broader Community in the Ecological Sciences
  7. Informal meet-up for dinner and/or brown-bag lunch for early career folks and mentors

Finally, INNGE is hoping to discuss the future formats of international ecology conferences with the many ecological societies that will be represented at this historic meeting.


September: Advancing ecology at the interface: Later in September, the European Ecological Federation (EEF) hosts its meeting in Rome, Italy. The theme of the meeting is Ecology at the Interface. Over the years, I have often wondered why more ecology meetings were not themed in an interdisciplinary or solutions oriented context. Why are the foremost debating grounds for how the society and interdisciplinary (ecological) solutions could develop in the future not international ecology meetings rather than international meetings dominated by economists or political scientists ? Whatever the answer is, it is refreshing to see the EEF meeting in Rome phrased in an interdisciplinary context.

INNGE will also be present in Rome including with a symposium on “critical innovations for ecology” which hopefully will stir some debate about where research, communication, publishing and data infrastructure of the ecological sciences should be headed in the future. Stay tuned for speaker confirmations!



Agreeing on a 15 year agenda for humans and the environment: The final negotiation and agreement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) kicks off the same day the EEF meeting in Rome ends. The Sustainable Development Goals will replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as the major framework for developing AND developed countries from 2015 to 2030. Compared to the MDGs the SDGs have a much larger emphasis on the environmental pillar and not just the social and economic pillars of development. In addition, the goals outline actions to be taken by not only developing, but also developed countries. These two facts are a reason for ecologists to be optimistic about translating ecological science into a multidisciplinary solution oriented policy framework. On the other hand, some critics will say that the environmental goals of the SDGs currently are rather vague if you compare them to goals on poverty, economic growth, food security and health, for example.

In contrast to the climate treaty meeting in Paris in December, where there are still many negotiations to take place and few bits of concrete text for the agreement already drafted, there is already a long draft, including 169 targets and 17 goals, for how the world should develop sustainably until 2030. To the best of my knowledge, this draft is unlikely to change drastically, but if it does, you can follow all the discussion taking place on social media through use of two hashtags, #SDGs and #post2015.


1 billion people musing on anthropogenic environmental change and a climate treaty So while it seems certain that there will be an integrated development agenda for 2015, who really knows what will happen in December in Paris. I will leave any guesses about outcomes to the excellent Road2Paris blog. I do, however, think it is interesting to stop and speculate on whether the initiative to gather 1 billion people for the Live Earth event, to reflect on anthropogenic climate change, will have any success in increasing ecological awareness in the general public more long-term. The event announced last week by Al Gore, Kevin Wall, and Pharrell Williams surely is ambitious and has the potential to be the largest ever gathering with an ecological theme.


2015: A tipping point for ecology? So 2015 may be the year where 1 billion people gather to reflect on the impact of our species on our own habitat, and in that sense, reconnect with nature. If so, maybe 2015 will also be an avenue for ecologists to be cheerful and engage even more vigorously than before in interdisciplinary and solutions oriented science and policy. If ecological societies will not study the relationship between the most dominant species on earth and its resource base, in an ecological framework, who will? If not ecological societies, who will promote an ecological understanding of our own species? If not ecological societies, who will contribute to long-lasting solutions based on ecological science? 

Which events are you especially looking forward to in 2015? Participate in the debate using the the comment field below or the currently empty twitter hashtag #ecology2015