March 25-29th 2017, Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden
On the 25th of March the Association of Tropical Biology and Conservation formally opened their 11th Chapter meeting in Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Gardens. The meeting included around 300 people of 37 nationalities from 108 institutions, and included around 150 international participants.
In the 11 years since the Asia-Pacific Chapter launched in Kunming it has convened annually in countries across the region, and co-convened twice with the main ATBC in addition to jointly hosting a meeting with the Society for Conservation Biology in Singapore last year.
The conference focused on four main themes to attempt to capture the diversity of the region, and better conserve it into the future:
A. Patterns and processes of Biodiversity
B. Biogeography and evolution of Southeast Asian Biodiversity
C. Addressing the threats to Southeast Asian Biodiversity
D.Sustainable use and production of natural resources
The conference opened with speeches from Prof. Chen Jin, Director of XTBG, Vice GovernorHong Wei of Xishuangbanna Prefecture and Alice C. Hughes as the Chair of the conference, and the secretary of the conference before a keynote speech by Antony Lynam (WCS) on conservation in Asia.
The conference included a number of noted conservationists as keynote presenters; Zhou Jinfeng (CBCGDF) highlighting the importance of engaging across society to conduct successful conservation. Zhou Jinfeng explored many casestudies of successful conservation in China, discussed the importance of public interest litigation in ensuring no organization can violate environmental regulation, and highlighted the success of community conservation areas (CCAfas) in protecting important areas for biodiversity.
Lu Zhi (Shanshui, Peking University) also gave a keynote presentation on conservation across China, focusing on their species specific work on some of China’s most charismatic species and threatened landscapes, and how large charismatic species can be used as a vehicle to protect entire regions.
Conservation in China was also discussed in a panel session chaired by Alice C. Hughes (XTBG) and featuring Becky Shu Chen (ZSL), Bosco Chan (Kadoree Botanic Farm) and Shi Kun (The wildlife Institute). The panel highlighted the threats posed by the destruction of native habitats (especially forest) and the trade in endangered species, especially at border markets such as Mongla and Botan, and the impact of the farming of some endangered species on the survival of wild populations. They also highlighted the growing interest of the public in biodiversity, and the use of social technology to help promote biodiversity and sustainable use. The panel also highlighted the need for conservation champions to promote positive conservation messages, and the need for capacity development to prevent wildlife trade and reduce demand for endangered species. The panel also mentioned the need to work to help the effective implementation of the new Wildlife protection laws, and the need for baseline data on little known species.
Many sessions focused on the need for successful conservation across the region, to protect species and their habitats, and especially to protect endangered ecosystems such as karsts.
The conference also included many presentations which aimed to understand species ecology, evolution and patterns of biogeography. This also featured a keynote presentation by Jane Memmott (University of Bristol) on asking questions in ecology which highlighted the need for approaches which explored the complexity of certain natural systems such as network analyses. Robert Spicer also gave a keynote presentation on the evolution of regional biodiversity patterns, and the relevance of the past to understanding present patterns of species distributions and biodiversity patterns. Many sessions discussed similar work, and explored these questions in depth on a range of species.
In addition,the conference showcased the latest methods for ecological research, including a panel session chaired by Ahimsa Campos-Archiez (University of Nottingham, Malaysia), with inputs from Sophie Aldwick (ZSL), Lian Pin Koh (University of Adelaide), Caroline Dingle (Hong Kong University) and Douglas Yu (Kunming institute of Zoology). This panel focused on the application of new technologies to understanding biodiversity and their applications in management, and included the use of Conservation drones in monitoring landscapes, the use of isotopes in exploring animal migration and wildlife trading routes, the use of environmental traces of DNA (eDNA) in understanding species ecology and the use of SMART technology and new technology to understand when potential hunters enter protected areas to allow rapid and effective action.
The conference also had a strong emphasis on training for the next generation of researchers, with8 long workshops (1-13 days), 6 shorter training sessions and mentoring. These sessions help provide a suite of support and training for the next generation of researchers, to ensure they have the confidence and capacity to become experts in their fields.
The ATBC always aims to support young researchers, so they can access the specialist skills they need to become experts, but also to present their research well and to form the networks they ultimately need to be successful and effective scientists and conservationists.
To complement this, we also had one wildlife photographer and two artists showcasing the beauty and diversity of the natural world and showing how easy it is to engage with biodiversity.
Throughout the conference we also aimed to maintain gender balance, and the initial keynotes both male and female speakers as national, regional and global speakers (as initially 6 keynotes were included). Panel sessions also were designed to have a total of 4 male and 4 female participants and one male, and one female chair. This is an important component of the meeting, as young scientists need role models they can identify with, and frequently in the past men have had greater opportunities for representation in these meetings. We feel that by showing that equality should be the normality we can also showcase that there are many excellent speakers and experts of both genders and that we need to provide equal opportunity to all.
The conference marked the progress in conservation in some parts of the region, but also the need for more work-particularly to reduce the unsustainable demand for wildlife, the prevention of the further destruction of threatened habitats and the enforcement of regulations which protect species and systems. We also showed the need for further capacity for the implementation of conservation in many parts of the region.
At the closing ceremony, 5 prizes were awarded to students for their impressive research. Antony Lynam gave a speech as the outgoing chair of the ATBC’s Asia-Pacific Chapter, and welcomed Alice C. Hughes as the incoming Chair, and Director Chen Jin thanked all delegates and organizers for their contributions.
Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences. Menglun, Mengla, Yunnan 666303, China
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