Conservation Asia 2016


Conservation Asia 2016, the first joint meeting hosted by the regional chapters of the Society for Conservation Biology (SCB) Asia and the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC) Asia-Pacific, was held at the National University of Singapore (NUS) University Town from 29 June to 2 July.


The conference theme of "Sustainable Landscapes for People, Business and Biodiversity" reflected the complex and multi-faceted environmental challenges facing the Asian region, while also recognising the need and potential for sustainable solutions.


Over the past 30 years, Asia has experienced spectacular economic and population growth, sustained in part through resource extraction and crop expansion. This has resulted in greater deforestation, habitat degradation, pollution and species extinctions across Asia.


Close to 600 participants from 37 countries attended the conference, which presented a platform for students, researchers, industry leaders and conservation practitioners to engage in scientific discourse, discuss innovative research and develop new partnerships to address these environmental issues.


In his speech at the Opening Dinner, Guest of Honour, Mr Desmond LEE, Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development, highlighted Singapore’s biodiversity conservation efforts in support of the Nature Conservation Masterplan which was announced last year. He said, “Effective conservation cannot be accomplished without science. This is why we are collaborating with our institutes of higher learning to tap the expertise of our researchers and practitioners. I hope that the conference will renew our commitment to safeguard the fascinating biodiversity that exists in Singapore.”


Mr Lee added, “The landscape affects people, businesses and biodiversity. They in turn affect the landscape and one another. The challenge of preserving biodiversity affects not just societies, but also presents sociological and socio-political issues that govern the complex interactions of economics, businesses and human behaviour.”


In his welcome address, Prof Leo TAN from NUS Department of Biological Sciences (DBS) said, “The Sustainable Landscapes for People, Business and Biodiversity are inextricably linked. As urbanisation increasingly encroaches into natural habitats with 75 percent of the population living in cities by 2050, even more attention must be given by researchers, policy-makers, corporates and citizens to effectively manage and conserve the dynamic but fragile ecosystem services, which nature provides.” Prof Tan, a veteran marine biologist, is well-known for his contributions to science education, and conservation in Singapore. Urging researchers to collaborate with change-makers such as the youth, media, industry and Government agencies, he said, “If the local communities understand and appreciate the science, and how political and economic decisions will impact their physical, social and cultural environment, their collective voice will ensure the conservation of nature and biodiversity.”  


The conference featured 39 symposiums; 62 poster and speed talk presentations as well as four plenary speeches by esteemed scientists contributing to conservation in the Asia-Pacific region. Dr Erik MEIJAARD from Borneo Futures and the University of Queensland spoke on the integration of business and the conservation of timber, oil palm, pulp and paper in Borneo. Prof Ruth DEFRIES from Columbia University illustrated efforts in Southeast Asia and India to develop alliances for conservation, health and development. Dr Sue MILLER TAEI from Conservation International and the New Zealand and Pacific Oceanscape Programme, University of Auckland shared insights on large-scale marine conservation by illustrating how Pacific Island nations are managing their ocean domains. Prof Harini NAGENDRA from Azim Premji University, India, discussed how cities can balance growth with sustainable and ecologically smart development.


For the Student Oral Presentations, Stephanie HING and TZE Kwan Fung received awards for their presentations on “Integrating stress physiology in endangered species conservation”, and “Frugivory and seed dispersal by common palm civet in a degraded landscape in Singapore”, respectively.


For the Student Poster and Speed Talks, Lois K. KINNEEN and Jessie PANAZZOLO received awards for their presentations on “The effects of fragmentation on insect herbivory rates in tropical rainforests” and “The use of newly restored forests by the critically endangered Sumatran elephant and orangutan”, respectively.


The innovative conference format featured morning plenary panels hosted by regional leaders in the areas of agro-industry and conservation, wildlife trade and species conservation. Various organisations, including Conservation International, Wildlife Conservation Society, the National Parks Board, Wildlife Reserves Singapore Conservation Fund, World Wildlife Fund and the Zoological Society of London, to name a few, also took up booths at U-Town.


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Prof Leo Tan giving his welcome address


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Dr Erik Meijaard’s Opening Keynote Speech addressed the topic of “Integrating Business and Conservation. The Way Forward or a Slide into Greenwashed Oblivion?”


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From left: Prof Leo Tan; Dr Erik Meijaard, Borneo Futures; Dr Anthony Lynam, Wildlife Conservation Society; Dr Christie Lam, SCB-Asia; Dr Sonia Luz, Wildlife Reserves Singapore; Prof Edward Webb, NUS DBS and Conference Chair; and Prof Ahimsa Campos-Arceiz, SCB-Asia


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Dr Ruth Defries’ talk on “Beyond Reconciliation: Alliances for Conservation, Health and Development” at the Closing Keynote Speech


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Prof Webb giving his appreciation to the Local Organising Committee


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Winners of Oral Presentations and Poster and Speed Talks. From left: Stephanie Hing, Tze Kwan Fung, Lois K. Kinneen and Jessie Panazzolo