NZES Conference 2023 - plenary talks

2.20 p.m. Student plenary: James Roberts, Massey University

Phenology as an assessment to evaluate the potential of the false katipō (Steatoda capensis) in outcompeting the endemic katipō spider (Latrodectus katipō) in Aotearoa/New Zealand

Competitive displacement of native species by invasive species takes place when invasive species outcompete native species. This process is a significant concern in conservation ecology. Phenological differences can drive the displacement of native species by invasive species when the timing of key life events, such as reproduction, allow them to exploit resources and establish dominance at times when native species are less active. This asynchrony in phenological timing can provide invasive species with a competitive advantage. False katipо̄ spiders (Steatoda capensis) may be displacing native katipо̄ spiders (Latrodectus katipo). We examined whether phenological differences play a role in the displacement of the katipо̄ from its natural habitat by false katipо̄. We surveyed size classes, sex, and the presence of egg sacs over the course of a year. Surveys were conducted in Te aria, Auckland where both katipо̄ and false katipо̄ spiders are present. Our results indicate that size classes, sex and egg sac presence varies across the year in both katipо̄ and false katipо̄. These findings imply that phenological variation may contribute to the displacement of katipо̄ by false katipо̄.

2.50 p.m. Te Tohu Taiao Award 2022 plenary: Prof Phil Hulme

Building transdisciplinary across the biological invasion continuum: a role for One Biosecurity

The United Nations defines biosecurity as a strategic and integrated approach that encompasses the policy and regulatory frameworks for analysing and managing relevant risks to human, animal and plant life and health, and associated risks to the environment.  Thus, biosecurity is an inherently transdisciplinary issue yet regulators, researchers and other stakeholders working in human, animal, plant, or environmental health often work within monodisciplinary siloes unaware of the bigger picture.  One Biosecurity challenges this status quo and presents a more inclusive and holistic approach to managing biological invasions that transcends the traditional boundaries of human, animal, plant, and environmental health, explicitly incorporates perspectives of human values, and acknowledges the key role of indigenous people in knowledge production.  One Biosecurity operationalises many of the concepts underpinning One Health but with a stronger focus on the threats posed by invasive species to the economy, environment, and human wellbeing.  One Biosecurity requires that the key cross-sectoral research innovations be identified and prioritised. Four major interlinked issues include: implementation of new surveillance technologies adopting state-of-the-art sensors connected to the Internet of Things, deployable handheld molecular and genomic tracing tools, sophisticated socio-environmental models and data capture, and the assessment of diverse human values and wellbeing in relation to biosecurity threats. The relevance and applicability of these issues to address threats from pathogens, pests, and weeds in both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems emphasise the opportunity to build critical mass around transdisciplinary teams at a global scale that can rapidly advance science solutions targeting biosecurity threats.

3.35 p.m. Australian Ecology Research Award 2021 plenary: Prof Euan Ritchie

Mammalogical musings, mysteries, and misfortunes: Messages from Australia’s fabulous fuzzballs

Australia’s mammal fauna is like no other, extraordinarily diverse, and most species are found nowhere else on Earth. They contribute to our national identity and have deep cultural values and meanings for First Nations peoples. Tragically, Australia is the world leader in contemporary mammal species extinctions, with an estimated 40 species now likely gone forever, and more than 100 species have far from secure futures. Recent research highlights just how important mammals are for maintaining healthy and biodiverse ecosystems. In this talk I will use Australia’s mammals as a lens to understand and discuss key lessons for Australian ecology, conservation, and environmental policy.

4.20 p.m. Australian Ecology Research Award 2022 plenary: Assoc Prof John Morgan

Australian grasslands through time – integrating ecology and history

One of the fundamental aims of ecology is to understand why species live where they do. It’s generally assumed that combinations of abiotic factors like rainfall, temperature, and geology can explain current species distributions. Some studies might also factor in land-uses of the past decade or century, or even, traditional indigenous land management. However, this approach doesn’t consider several fundamental questions: What ancestral conditions did species evolve under? How did this affect where they live today? Are they living in their ideal conditions?, or are they at the edge of their tolerance? And importantly, what might they tolerate in future? By looking at how ecological processes influence biogeographical patterns within and among groups of species, we can reveal distribution patterns that might otherwise remain hidden. I use the evolution of grasslands in Australia – the grasses and their component herbs – to better understand where they have come from, how they’ve managed to occupy large parts of the country, and to think about their future (including new invaders) in the context of a changing climate. Spoiler alert: most Australian grasses aren’t actually all that Australian! Which makes for a fascinating story about the importance of history in ecology!