This week I have been in beautiful Wales!
To meet fellow early career scientists (and some older ones ..) and talk about the beauty of our coasts.
Particularly we have been talking about coastal ecosystems (yes, I was amongst other geeks like me who get excited about the little things living amongst sand and on the rocks), and we have had interesting discussions about their transitions, what is threatening them and the general ecological principle governing them...
Many of the talks have been about beautiful saltmarshes, but anything living on a mudflat systems and so my loved mussels have been included...
If you didn't know already, these systems are so important to protect our coastlines: defending against sealevel rise, stocking our carbon, keeping pollinators population numbers high (yes, there was a talk about bees, because coastal systems are a transition between the marine and the terrestrial), and they even sustain grazers such as sheeps and cows (which may have to beware of the rising tides...) !
Of course, species interactions are so important and there is so much that we still need to understand about our coasts.
But there is something that came to my mind and that sparked some interior reflections, and that has to do with the role that the environment can play in our lives. Many ecosystems, and particularly coastal systems, provide ecosystem services. By this I mean that they provide us with things such as food, carbon storage, fresh air (photosyntesis, nutrient cycling, pollution control) and areas of beautiful landscape that we can use for activities. But how much can we "demand" as human from these sytems? Can a single ecosystem, a single patch of coastal area, provide all services at the same time? And even, can the same ecosystem ALWAYS provide certain services, or does it have to be in a specific state? (for example a new versus an older patch of saltmarsh?).
And more questions, such as how much can we intervene as humans? Should we always actively restore? Or should we leave things as they are?
As per usual, these meetings leave me with more questions than answers, and of course this is the fun of science. Do you have any suggestions? I am always asking myself and others new questions, and as soon as we answer something I look for more answers. The full picture may never arise, as more sketches take shape, but it is a great opportunity to have the chance to talk with others studying similar things.
The key is to keep curious, keep exploring and keep asking. These sketches will become beautiful paintings, and will help the new generations making new sketches and even more beautiful art..
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