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INNGE Reporter: "The 6th Binational Meeting of Ecology (Argentina-Chile)"

Contributed by Sofía Campana, Georgina Conti, Florencia Spirito and Laureano Gherardi

The was held on  September 18th to 23rd, 2016 in Puerto Iguazú, Argentina. This small town is known for its proximity to the Iguazú Falls, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. It is situated within one of the biggest remnants of Atlantic Forest, which is a biodiversity hotspot in South America. This natural setting provided a perfect atmosphere for our meeting, which theme was “The challenge of integrating society and nature: proposals from ecology". 

The Binational Meeting of Ecology is organized every two years by the ecological societies of these two neighbouring countries: the Chilean Society of Ecology () and the Argentinian Ecological Association (). This year, more than 600 ecologists attended the meeting, including undergraduate and postgraduate students, researchers and natural reserve managers from Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Brazil, Paraguay, Ecuador, Mexico, United States and Spain. The meeting consisted of six plenary conferences, 25 symposia, seven courses/workshops, 27 oral sessions (with ca. 200 speakers) and more than 300 poster presentations.

The challenge of linking nature and society

This year, the ecological meeting highlighted a main challenge across ecologists: to address the need to make a theoretical and empirical link in continuous feedback between natural ecosystems and human societies. This was reflected across plenary conferences, starting with Ulysses Alburqueque (Federal Rural University of Pernambuco, Brazil) proposing the need to consider humans as ecosystems engineers in ecological approaches. He showed a controversial framework that generated several interesting questions and debate across attendees. This first plenary was followed by several symposia addressing agroecology, etnobiology, etnoecology, etnozoology, ecological restoration, eco-economy concluding the first day with a plenary conference leaded by Irina Izaguirre (University of Buenos Aires, Argentina) showing the effect of anthropogenic changes in aquatic ecosystems embedded across the Argentinian Pampa.

A very interesting and enjoyable plenary conference was the one proposed by Patrick Lavelle (Pierre and Marie Curie University, France) showing the complexity of underground systems continuously evolving over time. In this context, conventional agriculture acts disrupting and turning back processes and systems, making soils simpler and poorer in terms of biological activity. He proposed a redefinition of agriculture in particular, and managed landscapes in general, calling for special research attention on the restoration of anthropized ecosystems.

Plenary conferences called for a change in the general paradigm conducting ecological research in southern South America, as was pointed out by Audrey Grez (University of Chile) and repeated across symposium, oral and poster sessions: there is a bias in ecological studies towards the study of natural ecosystems where managed or disturbed ecosystems are underrepresented even though these managed ecosystems support most food provisioning services contributing to human well being.

INNGE: “Seeds in the South”

Last year a small group of young ecologists from Argentina started the South American INNGE sub-group, called “INNGE: seeds in the South”. For our inaugural event we organised the symposium entitled “The ecology and the ecologists to come: challenges and opportunities in the next decades”. We were motivated by our joint vision for the future of ecology, and the slogan of the meeting was a perfect framework for our first symposium as INNGE South America. We invited five inspiring speakers who are leaders in ecological science to talk about three key topics: (i) academia and the role of ecologists in society (, ), (ii) cooperative networks in ecology (), and (iii) science communication beyond scientific literature (). The symposium was a great success and very well attended, with high levels of participation from the audience. After the symposium, a lot of people showed interest in being involved and collaborating with other INNGE activities across South America. It was a great first step for us! At present, we are actively participating together with a group of more than 30 researchers, putting together several ideas and discussions of collaboration, evaluation of the actual situation and future goals of early career ecologists.

If you would like to collaborate or know more about the group “Seeds in the South”, you could write to:

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