Lessons in ecosystem services management, from Indonesian mangroves to Oregon estuaries

Ecological researchers care deeply about the health of the systems they study, but do not always know how to put into practice the knowledge they acquire through experimentation. Scientists who have worked at the interface of discovery and application will share fresh research and stories of triumph and challenge, coming together in discussion to find the threads of shared experience, on Tuesday, August 8th in a symposium on “Integrating Ecological Science into Policy and Management for Ecosystem Services: Challenges and Keys to Success” during the Ecological Society of America’s 2017 Annual Meeting in Portland, Oregon.

“At ESA meetings I hear about so many really interesting studies of biodiversity and ecosystem functions. I don’t hear much about how to quickly convert that cutting-edge knowledge into usable tidbits for the forestry managers and the fisheries managers who need to apply it to public lands and resources, or for ranchers trying to adapt their business to climate change,” said symposium organizer Bruce Byers.

Byers has experience from the academic’s and the practitioner’s perspective. His career started on a traditional trajectory, with a decade as an ecology professor at the University of Colorado. Following a policy fellowship at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), he changed direction. His private consulting firm carries out assessments, analyses, and applied research on behalf of government agencies, NGOs, and the private sector in the U.S. and over­seas.

“Academic ecologists are used to talking to each other, and to teaching their students how to talk to other academics,” said Byers. But aid organizations and resource managers also have their bubbles of familiar concepts and jargon, he said. “In my work with USAID, other international donors, and even the U.S. Forest Service, I run into the same problem. Their mission is economic stability. Many of these people have no clue what ecosystem functioning is or how it supports their mission.”

Byers leads biodiversity survey teams in Malawi’s Shire River Basin for one of his current projects, a small part of a larger sustainability project for the watershed, supported by the World Bank. Forest ecosystems in the upper watershed hold moisture in the soil, providing a valuable “ecosystem service” for millions of people in southern Malawi who depend on the river. The more diverse the forest is, the more it thrives, the better it performs the water-retention service.

Explaining how that forest reaches downstream to all of the hydrological systems that people need, Byers said, is a bigger challenge than performing the research. The next challenge is persuading a water manager, likely an engineer who may have never taken a biology class, that they should pay as much attention to the upstream forest as to the downstream flow. Managers then must think about how to persuade people that their needs will be met without cutting down those forests.

To discuss success stories, and common challenges, in translating new scientific knowledge into actionable management and policy strategies, Byers and co-organizer Frank Davis, a professor at the University of California in Santa Barbara, have brought together five additional researchers working at local and global scales, on land, sea, and in between.

“Ecological science is essential to achieving the triple bottom line of biodiversity conservation, economic and social benefits,” said Davis, a graduate of the Aldo Leopold Leadership Program and Google Science Communication fellow, who has served on many projects designed to put science to work to solve problems for people and their environment. “In this symposium we hope to showcase some of the key needs and opportunities for fundamental ecological research to inform better ecosystem service management and policy outcomes.”

SYMPOSIUM 8 – Integrating Ecological Science into Policy and Management for Ecosystem Services: Challenges and Keys to Success

Tuesday, August 8, 2017: 1:30 PM-5:00 PM
Portland Blrm 252, Oregon Convention Center
Organizer: Bruce A. Byers, Bruce Byers Consulting
Co-organizer: Frank W. Davis, National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis

1:30 PM The role of biodiversity surveys in a World Bank water management and development project in Malawi
Bruce A. Byers, Bruce Byers Consulting

2:00 PM Trade-offs between mangrove conservation and land cover change: Is a pound of shrimp worth a ton of CO2?
J. Boone Kauffman, Oregon State University

2:30 PM Integrating ecosystem services into U.S. Forest Service policy and management
Nikola M. Smith, Pacific Northwest Region, USDA Forest Service

3:10 PM Remote sensing: A window for perceiving and illuminating ecological processes at alternative scales
Andrew Hudak, USDA Forest Service

3:40 PM A framework for prioritizing ecosystem services in the context of ecological drought
Molly S. Cross, Wildlife Conservation Society; Aaron R. Ramirez, National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis; Nejem Raheem, Emerson College; Steve Colt, Alaska Pacific University

4:10 PM Restoring ecological functions in the Salmon River estuary, Oregon
Rebecca L. Flitcroft, USDA Forest Service

2017 Annual Meeting in Portland Oregon
6-11 August 2017

Environmental scientists from 50 U.S. states, U.S. territories, and countries around the world will converge on Portland, Oregon this August for the 102nd Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America. Five thousand attendees are expected to gather for nearly four thousand scientific presentations on breaking research and new ecological concepts at the Oregon Convention Center on August 6th through 11th, 2017.

ESA invites press and institutional public information officers to attend for free (see credential policy below). To apply, please contact ESA Communications Officer Liza Lester directly at [email protected] Walk-in registration will be available during the meeting.

  • Annual Meeting website
  • Media information
  • Program


The Ecological Society of America, founded in 1915, is the world’s largest community of professional ecologists and a trusted source of ecological knowledge, committed to advancing the understanding of life on Earth. The 10,000 member Society publishes five journals and a membership bulletin and broadly shares ecological information through policy, media outreach, and education initiatives. The Society’s Annual Meeting attracts 4,000 attendees and features the most recent advances in ecological science. Visit the ESA website at http://www.esa.org

Media Contact

Liza Lester
[email protected]
202-833-8773 x211



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