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World Environment Day: it’s time to nurture nature

We need to learn to nurture nature, Hutton ecologists say (Photo: UNEP)
"We are extremely well placed to help society by understanding the impacts of rapid biodiversity loss and finding routes to sustainable management that can help reverse them"

Biodiversity —the variety of species, the genes within them, and the habitats in which they live— is threatened like never before. According to figures from the United Nations Environment Programme, we are on the verge of mass extinction: within the next 10 years, around 1 million species may be wiped off the surface of the planet - one out of every four known species. Wildlife has declined on average by over 60 per cent in last 50 years. At this rate, species are disappearing tens to hundreds of times faster than the average speed of the past 10 million years.

Celebrated annually on the 5th of June, World Environment Day is an opportunity to focus the world’s attention on a pressing environmental issue. It strives to raise awareness and encourage action for the environment and offers a chance to reflect on accomplishments and renew our resolve in overcoming the environmental challenges facing the world today. The theme for World Environment Day 2020 is biodiversity — a call to action to combat accelerating species loss and degradation of the natural world.

For scientists at the James Hutton Institute, biodiversity and how it builds and regulates ecosystems are key areas of work. Hutton researchers aim to understand how human-driven global and local environmental changes impact on the network of interactions between animals, microbes and plants in natural and semi-natural habitats to predict change and develop methods of sustainable management.

Ecologists at the Institute work across most terrestrial and some aquatic systems in Scotland, including alpine, moorland, grassland, arable, coastal, river and woodland habitats. Their research is aimed at understanding how ecosystems function and the role that biodiversity plays in this, and how biodiversity is affected by changes in land use and climate.

Professor Rob Brooker, head of the Institute’s Ecological Sciences department, said: “Ecology is often described as the study of the interaction of organisms and their environment. As with many fields, the historic trend in ecological science was to see humans as somehow separate from this; naturally we sat on a pedestal above the rest of nature, and it was ours to command, dominate and exploit.

“More recently we have become more acutely aware of how closely we are integrated with and dependent on nature. This is formalised in concepts such as socio-ecological systems, and recognition that many of the benefits that we get from nature – derived from nature’s ecosystem services – are in fact co-produced by people and nature interacting. We need to learn to nurture nature if we are to prolong our stay in this planet. For that purpose, ecological research is fundamental.

“Ours is a multi-disciplinary group of over 60 researchers with a unique breadth of scientific expertise, skills and knowledge in the ecology, physiology and systematics of microbes, lichens, fungi, plants, invertebrates and mammals. We are extremely well placed to help society by understanding the impacts of rapid biodiversity loss and finding routes to sustainable management that can help reverse them.”

Notes to editors

Ecological Sciences at the James Hutton Institute brings together renowned researchers working on diverse topics across crops, soils, biodiversity and nature conservation, with complementary expertise from molecular analyses to landscape ecology, skilled research support from field to laboratory, and long-standing research platforms in ecosystems from lowland agriculture to alpine.

Projects led by Ecological Sciences are notable for their cross-disciplinary approaches which largely reflect the “wicked” nature of the challenges surrounding sustainable resource management.

In its fundamental research, the department is challenging current thinking on relationships between biodiversity and function, progressively developing systems understanding from molecular to landscape scales and increasingly using socio-ecological approaches to understand how human-ecosystem relationships influence environment, social and economic sustainability.

All these studies are carried out in collaboration with other disciplines and a wide network of stakeholders. The department has a well-established track record of working with our stakeholders in co-construction and shared delivery of research and impact. 

More information from: 

Bernardo Rodriguez-Salcedo, Media Manager, James Hutton Institute, Tel: +44 (0)1224 395089 (direct line), +44 (0)344 928 5428 (switchboard) or +44 (0)7791 193918 (mobile).


Printed from /news/world-environment-day-it%E2%80%99s-time-nature on 20/09/20 08:00:29 AM

The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.