Aarhus Universitets segl

Biodiversitetssymposiet 2024

Abstracts - key note speakers

Professor Rudolf Meier

Towards holistic insect monitoring by accelerating species discovery, description, and identification using robots, nanopore sequencing, and Artificial Intelligence

Biodiversity science tends to neglect hyperdiverse insect clades although they provide many ecosystem services. I first document that more than half of the flying insect diversity in many samples is concentrated in 20 family-level clades regardless of where the samples were collected. I then demonstrate how little is known about most of these clades by comparing the species richness in bulk samples with the number of described species. This leads to the conclusion that we need new approaches to species discovery and the taxonomy of “dark taxa”. At the Center for Integrative Biodiversity Discovery at the Natural History Museum Berlin, we work toward a vision where much of the specimen handling and imaging is robotic, specimens are sorted to putative species with nanopore barcodes, and descriptions become increasingly semi-automatic despite combining molecular and morphological information. I will show that this approach allows for a “dark taxon” like the fungus gnats belonging to Mycetophilidae to be quickly converted from largely unknown for a country like Singapore to be sufficiently well known for biomonitoring. Lastly, I will outline how the images for common species can be used to train Convolutional Neural Networks (CNNs) for future specimen identification with images alone.

Professor Grant Hopcraft

Exploring delayed, displaced, and disproportional effects of humans on ecosystems: Animal movement and the conservation of the Serengeti-Mara Ecosystem

Underpinning the biodiversity crisis is the unprecedented loss of ecosystems and their functionality. In this talk I explore the ways in which humans are having delayed, displaced, and disproportional effects on the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem. I use the movement of animals as an indicator of an ecosystem under pressure. Typically, animal movement studies combine GPS data with environmental covariates to understand the how animals decide whether to remain or depart from an area. These behavioural responses are the product of calculated decisions in which animals weigh up the availability of resources and risks against their internal requirements, however estimating the physiological condition of free-living animals is challenging. In this talk I present some of our work from Serengeti in which we use metabolites deposited in the tail hair of GPS-collared migratory wildebeest to recreate their physiological timelines of starvation and pregnancy cycles. This approach provides a deeper understanding of how the internal state of the animal (such as stress and hunger) alters their behavioural decisions about whether to stay or move. These approaches allow us to explore how animals react to human activity both at the edges of ecosystems (where migratory animals interact with people) and in the core protected areas (where migratory animals interact with tourism infrastructure). By linking the movement of animals to their internal state we gain deeper insights about which management interventions are working and how animals are responding both physiologically and behaviourally to human activities. The next challenge is to integrate these metrics with long-term demographic responses, such as survival and population viability.

Professor Jens-Christian Svenning

Ecosystem management under emerging novel biosphere conditions - navigating challenges, necessities, and opportunities

Human-induced global changes, including anthropogenic climate change, biotic globalization, trophic downgrading, and pervasive land use, are transforming Earth's biosphere, placing biodiversity and ecosystems at the forefront of unprecedented challenges. Arguably the current situation represents a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene, underscoring the dominant influence of humans in the Earth system and calls for a critical reassessment of our interactions with the biosphere. Addressing the pressing climate and biodiversity crises requires transformative changes toward effective planetary stewardship. In this talk, I will explore the socio-ecological dynamics leading to our current situation, examine biodiversity dynamics within novel ecosystems, discuss the growing significance of biosphere novelty for human societies, and consider strategies for steering ecological dynamics toward positive outcomes under increasingly novel conditions. A central conclusion is that achieving planetary stewardship in the Anthropocene will necessitate collaboration across different scales and the integration of ecological knowledge with societal needs, through scalable solutions and cultural innovations tailored to these new ecological realities.

Professor Kristi Deiner

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