Symposium on Biodiversity Resilience.Oxford University

As Prof. Shahid Naeem pointed out at the Biosymposium on Biodiversity Resilience held at Oxford University on the 2nd and 3rd of October, most publications today only look at one dimension of biodiversity: taxonomic diversity. Yet biodiversity includes all the diversity found in the living world embracing genetic, ecosystems and species diversity. In order to manage resilient ecosystems and sustain human well-being there is an urgent need to tackle and link all the different dimensions of biodiversity loss.  This inevitably raises the thorny issue of scale. What is the most appropriate temporal and spatial scale needed to manage resilient ecosystems and sustain human-well-being in a changing climate? These were just some of the fascinating questions which were tackled during the symposium, in which I had the opportunity to present a poster on my current research on How Information Communication Technology (ICT) could be used to assist socio-ecological resilience in the Arctic.


Socio-ecological systems is a concept which emphasizes that humans are a part of nature and a key element of the resilience of these systems is the ability to adapt to new circumstances (Carpenter et al 2001).  Travelling on sea ice is becoming increasingly dangerous in the Arctic as the weather is becoming more and more unpredictable and as Dr. Tom Thornton pointed out there is an urgent need to support appropriate autonomous adaptation strategies. As Indigenous Peoples in Alaska have no rights over their water it is vital to start conceptualizing the Arctic as a marine ecosystem. Interestingly, as Dr. Sue Moore argued, marine mammals should be seen as our ecosystem sentinels for resilient strategies. And, as Indigenous Peoples depend on them for subsistence, in order to create resilient Arctic ecosystems a holistic approach is key.


Prof Shahid Naeem’s analogy of biodiversity loss: “if we keep losing spices, eventually curry is just salt”  brought to mind one of my favorite Aesop’s fables: ‘The Salt Merchant and His Donkey’. In the fable a Donkey tried to play the fool with his master, yet his trick recoiled on him and he ended up carrying home a load twice as heavy. Perhaps, as we keep on playing God with nature and if we don’t want to end up like the Donkey, we should keep this short parable in mind.


  • Carpenter, S.R., Walker, B.H., Anderies, J.M., Abel, N. 2001. From metaphor to measurement: resilience of what to what? Ecosystems, 4 (765-781).

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