Yes, the British Ecological Society has done it again with a fabulous Annual Meeting this time in Edinburgh, Scotland. As I write this, there is a day to go, although I’ve had to leave early to get back to my institution to torture students with end of term exams.
The two days of the meeting that I attended were a brilliant mix of papers, presentations, posters, and general networking. For me, it all kicked off with Luigi Boitani’s fascinating BES lecture on large carnivores in Europe. I was amazed, but pleased to learn just how well large carnivore populations are doing in some parts of Europe. This talk prefaced into a hugely controversial session on rewilding Europe the next day. Imagine that, rewilding Europe! The other ‘big’ talk I attended was the Tansley Lecture on Tuesday given by Josephine Pemberton in which she reviewed the fascinating work on the population dynamics of red deer on the Isle of Rum and Soay Sheep on St. Kilda. Oh, the value of long-term studies!
OK, no plants so far then. But, on Tuesday I attended papers in two Thematic Topics that we hope to turn into Special Features in the Journal of Ecology. First, “Digging Deeper – Advancing our Understanding of how Soil Biota Drive and Respond to Plant Invasions,” then “Dispersal Processes Driving Plant Movement: Challenges for Range Shifts in a Changing World.” Presentations in both of these sessions provided up to the minute reports on work in these two important areas. In brief, plant invaders modify the soil biota in ways that we just starting to understand, which then affects the native communities promoting invasibility. And, understanding dispersal events needs to accurately account for the ‘long tail’ of long-distance dispersers. There’s obviously much more to these topics than my one sentence summaries, so stay tuned here, and in the journal for more, later, we hope.
My final event at the Meeting was the Gala Dinner on Tuesday evening. As usual, the BES killed it, literally, (now) past-president Bill Sutherland killed the haggis while reciting Robert Burns after we were piped into the hall. An amazing meal was served, including a vegetarian haggis for those that didn’t want the venison. Various awards were presented to the worthy, including the Journal of Ecology Harper Prize to Michiel Veldhuis for his paper in the Journal “A novel mechanism for grazing lawn formation: large herbivore-induced modification of the plant–soil water balance.”