Why protected area networks are networks?

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Couple months ago I got contacted by the family of the late Prof Ilkka Hanski. After Ilkka past away, his family started to build a small nature reserve network in Virolahti, South-East Finland, where Ilkka’s father’s family was from. The network, called the Ilkka Hanski Nature Network, has some 11 protected areas currently, ranging from wetlands to Boreal forests and open rocky islands at the Baltic Sea.

I was invited to write a blog post on the network’s website. Particularly, they asked if I could write some words to explain why protected area networks are networks. As a conservation biologist, I’ve honestly never really spent too much time thinking about why that is – I’ve just always accepted that that’s how they work. So it was an interesting and fun exercise to try to answer the question.

You can find the blog in English here and in Finnish here.

New study: Which species drive my conservation priorities?


Pilot whale wondering where to go next. —- Photo by By Barney Moss (Watching Whales 4) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

In conservation planning, we often need to divide resources between multiple species. As conservation budgets virtually never meet the needs of adequate conservation, it’s important that every dollar is spent efficiently. Since many conservation actions have a spatial component, that is, they include the question of where the money should be spent, the question of how to divide resources quickly becomes about how to divide them between locations. Continue reading

How climate change will impact the tree of life of Australian eucalypts

We already know that climate change will force species to shift their distributions as climate zones move towards poles and to higher altitudes with increasing global temperatures. Several studies have looked at how biodiversity patterns across countries and continents are likely to change as a result, but fewer have taken the extra step to explore what these changes mean for the tree of life, that is, to the evolutionary lineages of biodiversity. Continue reading

Remembering Ilkka Hanski


Last week marked one of the saddest moments of my so far career as I learned that my previous lab director, mentor and a friend Prof Ilkka Hanski had passed away. Ilkka was the director of the Metapopulation Research Centre (MRC), a Finnish Center of Excellence, where I had the privilege of doing both my MSc and PhD. In addition to being an amazing, multi-awarded scientist, Ilkka was a much loved group leader.

Happy memories. Ilkka delivering his little personalized present to me in the celebration of my PhD defense. (Yep, it’s pretty formal in Finland). Photo: Evgeniy Meyke.

Together with my great colleagues here at QAECO we wrote a little tribute to Ilkka. I feel that so many more great things could have been said of him, but I hope we managed to pay homage to some of his many achievements.

A loss of a loved one is always a tremendously sad moment and my thoughts are with Ilkka’s family and friends back in Helsinki. In the past week I have talked to some of my old colleagues from MRC, many of who now live around the world, sharing memories of Ilkka and the wonderful time we had with him. It warms my heart that not only Ilkka’s brilliant work but also his amazing working philosophy is being carried forward by the many new generations of wonderful researchers he trained, directly or indirectly, during his career.

Goodbye Ilkka. And thank you.


PADDDtracker – a new web tool to see where conservation takes steps back

A couple years back Michael Mascia and Sharon Pailler published an interesting paper where they reviewed how protected area downgrading (=decrease in legal protection), downsizing (=decrease in area) and degazettement (=loss of entire PA) – or PADDD as they call it – has taken place around the world. I really enjoyed reading this paper and think that it was a great opening on a very important topic. We’ve all heard news about relaxing protected area regulations to allow, for example, mining activities within protected sites. But it’s important to keep in mind that PADDD actions are not always negative as they can help us to solve complex social issues that are critical to the effectiveness of the protected areas (such as re-establishing the rights of indigenous people on their land). Continue reading