Invasion biology focuses on all aspects of species introduced by people to new places, and is arguably the most contested field in ecological science. Some critics suggest that invasion biology is biased and should be abandoned, while its most ardent advocates describe critics as ‘science denialists’.
This cross-cutting theme will assess the extent to which this polarisation has emerged from differences in the personal and societal values of researchers, and more generally how a sense of the ‘otherness’ of species that are perceived to be foreign plays out across society as a whole and in the formulation of conservation actions. Societal responses that this theme will consider include decisions about customs regulations and climate change adaptation strategies, which stem from perceptions of the harms and benefits that might be associated with the arrival of ‘foreign species’.
Hybrids generate controversy. A dissonance has emerged between conservationists who are concerned about the purity of biological races, sub-species and species, evolutionary biologists who see hybridisation as stimulating evolutionary innovation, and technologists who wish to transfer genes between species, so as to improve crops, fight disease and recreate animals that resemble extinct ones.
This cross-cutting theme will involve research that coalesces our knowledge from all four research programmes, regarding the generation of new hybrid biodiversity, attitudes to novel hybrids in different cultures and times, the uses to which hybrids are put, and the extent to which novel hybrids could help solve future societal challenges.
Reducing social and economic inequality is a precondition to improve human wellbeing and make successful transitions to sustainable economies. Despite robust evidence to support this assertion, inequality remains a politically charged issue, driven by disagreements over equality of opportunity versus outcome, and over causal pathways and feedback loops.
This theme will explore the role of vertical (wealth, income, social class and education) and horizontal (gender, ethnic, age, language, cultural) inequalities, and their intersections, in relation to the perceived and actual benefits and harms that people cause to, and obtain from, ecosystems. We will then explore the societal circumstances under which benefits can be shared equitably, while still fostering biodiversity.