Integrate disciplines to conserve biodiversity


Newswise – Innovation is born from the transfer of research results into practice

Valuable research results threaten to dust university libraries if they are not put into practice. While transdisciplinary research seems to become increasingly important in science, funding programs and the media, there are still many misunderstandings to be clarified. In their recently published article, ecologist Bea Maas of the University of Vienna and her international co-authors discuss the opportunities and challenges of this disciplinary integration. With many examples from bird and bat research, they show how different disciplines such as biology, psychology and technology can jointly contribute to and improve the sustainable development of agricultural landscapes.

The United Nations Global Goals set specific requirements for sustainable development, often at the crossroads of society, economy and environment. Strong partnerships are highlighted as the key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. “Research to practice is no different,” says Bea Maas, lead author of the recent outlook article in Basic and Applied Ecology. She and her colleagues advocate for more interdisciplinary collaboration between different disciplines and stakeholders. According to the authors, the question of whether and how this collaboration can help achieve sustainability goals depends on taking into account or actually integrating findings from other disciplines.

“What seems obvious is often not easy to implement due to widespread misunderstandings and structural obstacles,” Maas points out. According to the authors, multi-, inter- and transdisciplinary research approaches are often confused or used as synonyms – even if they are distinguished by the increasing degree of integration of different disciplines. In addition, they say, there is a lack of mediation support between expert groups and respective policy makers. “Increased funding and in particular expert advice for more integrative transdisciplinary research has enormous potential to foster research and innovation in ecology and beyond,” summarizes co-author Carolina Campo-Ariza of the University of Göttingen.

Using the example of ecosystem services mediated by birds and bats, the three authors illustrate the close links between society, economy and the environment in sustainable development. “We know a lot more about how to use these opportunities than we actually implement them,” says co-author Christopher Whelan of the University of Chicago. The authors discuss the benefits of transdisciplinary work, such as improved data quality, innovation and productivity, as well as the potential pitfalls of these approaches. “A step-by-step approach is essential to the success of integrative collaboration,” says Maas. She and her colleagues use international examples of bird and bat research to describe how this can reduce costs and promote the implementation of research findings. Maas concludes: “Many species of birds and bats, as well as their economically valuable ecosystem services, could not have been protected in the first place without integrative approaches! This win-win way of thinking can take us a decisive step towards sustainable development. ”

Publication in fundamental and applied ecology:
Bea Maas et al. Cross-cutting approaches for better research: the case of birds and bats. Fundamental and applied ecology. 2021.

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