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Forscher des Instituts für Geobotanik gibt neue Einblicke in die biologische Schädlingsbekämpfung bei Seminarreihe der Universität Würzburg

Institute of Geobotany Researcher Shares New Insights into Biological Pest Control at University of Würzburg Seminar Series

Powerpoint slide showing images of biological control interactions. Powerpoint slide showing images of biological control interactions. Powerpoint slide showing images of biological control interactions.
Dr. Perez Alvarez shared key findings from his research on biological control services in agricultural systems.

On December 7, 2022, the Department of Animal Ecology and Tropical Biology at the University of Würzburg invited Dr. Ricardo Perez Alvarez from the Institute of Geobotany at Leibniz University Hannover to speak in their seminar series. The series covers a wide range of ecological topics, including agroecology, ecosystem services, and chemical ecology.

Dr. Perez Alvarez provided a broad overview of his research and shared new insights into the effects of landscape composition on biological pest control in agricultural ecosystems. Using examples from his Ph.D. research conducted at Cornell University, he explained how landscape composition can influence the efficacy of augmentative biological control, a crop protection strategy that involves actively releasing natural enemies—beneficial insects that eat insect crop pests—into crop fields. He also explained that these predatory insects not only have the potential to provide direct benefits to farmers by consuming insect pests, but also indirectly by scaring pests, causing them to eat less. To conclude, he shared some of his latest work out of the Institute of Geobotany exploring the relationship between landscape composition and the stability of biological control services over time. 

The seminar sparked a lively conversation on the ecological mechanisms underlying the varying responses of biological control strategies across landscape contexts. The audience was particularly interested in discussing why some strategies work in certain contexts, but not others. There was also a strong discussion around augmentative biological control (i.e., intentionally releasing natural enemies) versus conservation biological control (i.e., protecting habitats and environmental conditions that attract natural enemies), and when it is appropriate to use one strategy over the other.

A discussion also surfaced around slow science, a movement based on the belief that science is creative work that requires time and is therefore incompatible with the current frenzied pace of academia where researchers are pushed to continuously publish or perish. The enthusiasm around this topic triggered the idea to organize a slow science workshop at the 2023 GfÖ conference in Leipzig, Germany.