ALTER-Net is Europe’s ecosystem research network. It was originally established in 2004 as an EU Network of Excellence, funded by the European Commission’s 6th Framework Programme for Research and Development. The network is set to facilitate sustainable, integrated ecosystem research capacity in Europe, with a focus on terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems. Meanwhile the network operates independently. Key activities of ALTER-Net include support for long-term research infrastructures (such as laboratories and field stations), promotion of interdisciplinary research and training via an annual Summer School, and the organisation of European conferences.
The 2017 conference theme was ‘Nature and society: synergies, conflicts, trade-offs’. It focused on an important aspect in current conservation, which is to find the right balance between strict nature conservation objectives and other goals in society. This often creates tensions and conflicts, but when considering a range of views, involving various scientific disciplines, and exploring multiple landscape functions, solutions may be found that benefit both nature and society. This year’s ALTER-Net conference contributed to this process of finding solutions by bringing together scientists from many disciplines, from ecology to philosophy, from economy to ethology. They were joined by representatives from policy, business and civil society to jointly discuss how to make choices to reduce conflicts and increase co-benefits. The conference was held from 2 to 4 May in Ghent, Belgium.
For this conference I produced a policy brief: a short policy-oriented summary of the key discussions and findings during the conference. This brief is communicated to policymakers at the European (such as European Commission) and national levels and other stakeholders, so as to translate the knowledge from the conference into decision making.