Lene Liebe Delsett, Paleontologist

Biodiversity needs both time and space. As a result, the most important solution is that we use land in a smarter way and do not continually consume previously untouched natural areas. This requires awareness and a desire to do things differently.

My motivation

Vestre Habitats is a concrete project with ambitious goals. It’s time for everyone to do their bit to help nature, and this is a good example from industry. The urban furniture brings together land use and natural, time-consuming processes in an excellent way which can also help to raise awareness.

My best tips

Wonder

Try to understand the nature around you, including what we don’t normally think of as being beautiful.

Learning

Learn the names of animals and plants. Start by feeding birds in the winter and watching plants and insects in the summer.

Let the bumblebees buzz

Let gardens and ditch verges grow wild. Leave dead wood in place.

Take responsibility!

Become involved in local environmental issues.

10/09

A question of time and space

Most people have read that much of the natural environment is under threat as a result of human activity. The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) is responsible for summarising our knowledge about how nature is doing, and their reports concerning recent years have made for frightening reading. Around a million species are threatened by extinction on a global basis, and humans are already impacting on three quarters of the world's land surface.

What I keep repeating in lectures, in my book and in meetings with Vestre is that this is a question of time and space. Nature needs time for its processes to work and for evolution to take place, as well as space to do it in. That is why land use by mankind, our utilisation of natural areas, poses the greatest threat to biodiversity. That is the conclusion of the reports from the IPBES and in the international and Norwegian red lists of threatened species. Land use involves the construction of urban areas, industry and infrastructure, as well as agriculture and forestry. Climate change is interacting with the harmful use of natural areas, and the two problems are exacerbating each other.

This means that the key solutions for looking after the natural environment are about giving it room. We humans must stop taking over new natural areas, and start using less land, reuse land and restore nature instead.

In addition to land and climate change, overexploitation, pollution and the introduction of alien species have a harmful impact on biodiversity. Overexploitation is about the species that humans eat or use for materials, such as fish and timber. Alien species, introduced species or “blacklist species” are animals, plants and fungi which have ended up in new places because humans travel round, moving materials and goods at the same time. When a species ends up in a place with favourable conditions, it can spread rapidly, which can have major consequences for species which already live there. An example of this is that many of the world’s seabird species are under threat from introduced cats and rats, which eat their eggs.

I am aware that these are depressing issues and that many people are very concerned. For my part, I have found that the best approach is to do something about the problem. Because when many people are doing something together to save nature, we can get the arrows pointing in the right direction. In addition, going for a walk in nature is perhaps the best comfort of all.

04/09

How can we learn about nature?

Life is more fun when we look at nature. However, this might sound like an ambitious project where you have to travel a long way, know lots of facts or buy expensive equipment. This does not need to be the case, because nature is not somewhere else. It’s all around you!

I have two tips for how you can get started on learning about nature:

- Take notice of nature, whether you are on your way to work or walking in the mountains. What is so neat, is that the more you look, the more you see. You start to see different types of trees with different shapes, bugs and perhaps eventually some interrelationships. Birds that eat insects, bees on flowers and squirrels playing in the trees. Life in new places: bugs in a dead tree, a spider in the shower, or a bird of prey nesting on an office building.

- Use a bird book or a similar resource on the internet. It’s no surprise that birds are loved so much—they are of course a part of nature which you can easily experience! Bird books give people pleasure, no matter whether they are left on the windowsill or placed in the rucksack. In Norway, we do not have that many birds, so it is entirely possible to find out what you have seen without already knowing the underlying systematics or lots of bird names. Have a look at the birds in the nearest tree and try to make a note of what they look like. Are they large or small? What colours do they have on their head, breast and tail? Is there anything unusual about their beak, feet or tail? Browse through your bird book until you find something that is similar. There, you've already made a start.

As you probably realise, I strongly believe you will end up in a virtuous circle when you start taking notice of nature. The more you see, the more you wonder, and the more you learn. And once you know a bit about something, the more fun and easier it becomes to see, learn and understand even more.
30/08

Hello – a brief presentation

My name is Lene Liebe Delsett. I am one of the biologists in the project group behind Vestre Habitats. We will be dropping by the website from time to time and this is my first blog post. I thought I would introduce myself and explain my contribution to the project.

Most of what I do revolves around nature. My academic background is in biology and palaeontology, which means that I study animals which lived a long time ago, based on fossils. I have a PhD on ichthyosaurs from Svalbard and am currently working on a number of research projects concerning marine reptiles and mammals. I also work for the University of Oslo as centre coordinator for the Centre for Biogeochemistry in the Anthropocene, where the researchers are working to understand the carbon, nitrogen and phosphorous cycles and the impact of humans on them. My work at the centre is both internally and externally oriented.
Ever since I was young, I have been interested in environmental issues and I have held posts and worked for numerous environmental organisations. Within these organisations, I have worked on a variety of issues and have always been particularly interested in biodiversity. This led me to publish a book earlier this year entitled "Brennmaneteffekten – hvordan går det med den norske naturen?" (The lion’s mane jellyfish effect: What is happening to Norwegian nature?) The book is the reason why I was contacted by Vestre, who were wondering whether I would like to be a small part of their new project.

I decided to accept their offer in order to learn something new, to work with biodiversity in industry, and because I liked the aims behind the project. At the project group's meetings, I contribute my knowledge of the threats to biodiversity, offer a research perspective on how the positive effects of outdoor furniture can actually be measured, and give my thoughts regarding how wide-ranging and difficult topics can be communicated. I’m looking forward to following the project as it progresses!

Lene

Want to learn more?

I have chosen some useful resources and books for you to read: