Ellen Decaestecker / Full Professor

KU Leuven, Aquatic Biology / Biology

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My main concern in my field of expertise of aquatic biology, ecology and evolution is that the drastic decline in species numbers will limit important ecosystem functions and that this may happen at an even faster rate than occurring now. Some species may adapt or migrate, but the question is if they will be fast enough and for most species such a rapid adaptation is likely impossible. My largest concern is the crossing of tipping-points, which may hamper important ecological conditions in particular ecosystems and may lead to points of no return, in which it may become difficult to live (e.g. extreme drought conditions, floods, ocean acidification, hypoxic conditions in freshwater ecosystems).
In daily life, I try to reduce my own ecological footprint through my way of mobility (train-bike), helping in local reforestation projects, encouraging sustainable use of resources (water) and reducing meat consumption. I am convinced that changes in personal (short chain) consumption pattern may facilitate large societal changes (e.g. in the way products are produced).
The strongest difficulties are following: our hectic way of living makes it not easy to go for the most sustainable way of transport; administrative burden before things get realized; inducing behavioral change of the general public; general global approaches are too slow; conflict between sustainable energy development and biodiversity conservation (ideally both are combined).
The key changes we need at the political level is drastic rethinking of mobility and encouraging people to use sustainable transport (flight taxes, no longer subsidizing company cars). We need subsidies for reforestation, and we need them fast. Action need to be taken on well-studied cases (e.g. which soil do we need, where do we start with reforestation?). Encouragement of sustainable development goals, investment in innovative technology with large impact. Support for the people who need it most (and cannot afford expensive modifications to reduce their CO2 emission).

Originally posted 2018-07-03 17:23:07.