Wildlife losses drive global change

GCUA conference
Lincoln University senior ecology lecturer Dr James Ross has just returned from Sweden, where he attended a conference aimed at identifying crucial questions for future wildlife research.
The conference was part of a wider project called the Global Challenges University Alliance (GCUA), initiated by the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.
Lincoln University has recently joined the GCUA, which involves 25 institutions from each continent coming together to address issues such as food security and climate change.
Participating universities have strong backgrounds in agricultural, environmental or life sciences and a key focus of the alliance is organising thematic workshops and summer school courses for students, so they are provided with an active global network early in their careers.
During the recent conference, which took place between April 26-29, Dr Ross spoke at a workshop called ‘Why Wildlife?’, where scientists shared their thoughts on global challenges relating to wildlife research.
With the alliance aiming to gather greater scientific knowledge about how to cater to a steadily increasing population without causing ecological damage, Dr Ross says wildlife research is an important part of the equation.
“The mass loss of terrestrial animal species, particularly mammals and birds, is considered a major driver of global change,” Dr Ross says.
“Wildlife research has increasingly acknowledged the importance of economic and social dimensions in determining human-wildlife interaction.
“The key question we need to ask ourselves is how do we balance healthy and diverse wildlife populations with social and economic sustainability?
“We also need to clarify what kind of nature we desire, whether that is feasible and figure out how wildlife can contribute to a more sustainable future.”
Although wildlife losses are seen as contributors to global change, many parts of the Northern Hemisphere are now experiencing a strong wildlife comeback, as evidenced by the wolf and lynx across Europe.
“Simultaneously declining and increasing wildlife populations create huge global challenges but also opportunities,” Dr Ross says.
Challenges include larger numbers of wildlife causing conflicts in industries such as agriculture and forestry, and a greater risk of disease transmission between wild and domestic animals and humans.
However, opportunities can arise due to wildlife providing meat from hunting, recreation activities, eco-tourism and positive impacts on biodiversity and disease dynamics.
Dr Ross says wildlife research must find ways of mitigating these conflicts and promoting the opportunities.
The workshop also allowed participants to make plans for summer school courses aimed at PhD students within the GCUA network.
Lincoln University will host the ‘Why Wildlife’ summer school in February next year, with each participating University asked to send two PhD students to take part in the event.
It is anticipated that the upcoming summer school will provide students with a global perspective so they will be better positioned to collaborate internationally in terms of addressing important challenges, say project organisers.
Previous GCUA workshop topics have included Aquacultures, The Future of Forests, Green and Sustainable Cities, Environmental Monitoring, The Future of Food and Biofuels and Biorefineries.
For further information please contact:
Rebecca Doyle, Communications Officer
LincolnConnect, Lincoln University
DDI 03 423 0004
M 027 616 5454
E rebecca.doyle@lincoln.ac.nz
W www.lincoln.ac.nz

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