Tackling global challenges with ecological and evolutionary research
One of the youngest Nature Research Journals, Nature Ecology & Evolution launched in 2017 as an online only publication. Despite being one of the newest additions to Nature’s growing family of research journals, the fields of ecology and evolution reach furthest back in Nature’s history, with the first issue featuring an article about a study by Darwin.
The broad range of fundamental research covered in Nature Ecology & Evolution impacts almost every one of Springer Nature's Sustainable Development Programme, with biodiversity and the global consequences of its depletion connecting all of the journal’s subject areas.
“Ecological and evolutionary research is becoming more and more directly relevant to social and global concerns.” Patrick Goymer
In addition to its core mission of furthering research in every aspect of ecology and evolution, Nature Ecology & Evolution is actively working to promote dialogue and collaboration between researchers and policymakers. Without greater interaction between the science, government and business communities, widespread and effective application of solutions to the SN Sustainable Development Goals will be almost impossible.
Nature Ecology & Evolution intersects directly with many of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, including: Zero Hunger (2), Good Health & Wellbeing (3), Life Below Water (14) and Life on Land (15). Amongst some of the journal’s most prominent topics and those regularly reflected across its research, editorial, news and comment are: conservation biology, protected areas, agriculture, aquaculture, endangered species and infectious disease.
Each issue of the journal has added to the range of topics covered within its broad scope. An article in the first issue explored the effect of international trade on biodiversity, particularly in relation to developing countries. What is the impact, for example, of a London office worker buying a morning cup of coffee on the developing world? The journal’s research and analysis of global food and agriculture ranges from honey bees, other pollinators, and the impact of pests on crops, to areas as niche as different styles of agriculture and resulting ecologies either side of the former iron curtain. Coverage of oceans, fisheries and aquaculture spans topics such as the degree to which food security can be satisfied by marine life and the micro-plastic crisis.
One of the pillars of Springer Nature's SDG Programme is Climate Change and Nature Ecology & Evolution addresses the biological aspects of this threat. The journal assesses the impact of climate change on biodiversity and how species are both migrating and declining in response to global warming. However, ecosystems such as oceans and forests are not just the victims of climate change but also an important part of the solution through their crucial roles in the carbon cycle.
“Human activity has caused a vast increase in the extinction rate, and the ecosystem services we depend on are severely threatened.” Patrick Goymer
Bringing evolutionary history into health, human behaviour and conservation
Nature Ecology & Evolution has less obvious but important links to the UN’s SDGs 11 and 12: Sustainable Cities & Communities and Responsible Consumption & Production. Amongst topics of interest to the journal in relation to cities and urban ecology are the consequences of light pollution and the changing structure of microbial ecosystems.
Evolution plays a huge role in improving global health and tackling the many challenges associated with this ambition. Since its launch last year, the journal has published extensive original research on the antibiotic crisis as it relates to evolution, varied explorations of disease susceptibility, and the presentation of vaccination and cancer as evolutionary processes.
“antimicrobial resistance crisis, which is an evolutionary problem, rates alongside the climate and extinction crises in terms of existential threat to humanity.” Patrick Goymer
It also explores the complex subject of human-environment interaction, how this has evolved over thousands of years, and what it can teach us about tackling issues such as climate change.
Supporting global initiatives
Tackling any one of the SDGs not only involves effective collaboration between different professions, it also requires active and ongoing communication across a network of different global organisations, from research institutions, publishers and funding bodies, to scientific societies and NGOs. Nature Ecology & Evolution works in tandem with many such organisations, inviting and publishing articles, comment and reviews from scientists and practitioners working for bodies such as the IUCN; the Wildlife Conservation Society; the global network of tree diversity experiments: TreeDivNet; and the Cultural Evolution Society. In addition to publishing contributions from these organisations, the journal also facilitates active discussion across its community of readers on significant ecological projects such as the Ocean Health Index and the 2020 target for protected areas on land and sea. By being in active conversation with the people driving these global initiatives and publishing their research, Nature Ecology & Evolution provides a further stage for global collaboration in tackling threats to the world’s ecosystems.
Deepening conversations between science, policy and the public
Having already published significant research in the biological and environmental sciences, Nature Ecology & Evolution has big ambitions for the future. Speaking about his vision for the journal, Chief Editor Patrick Goymer stressed the growing link between ecology and evolution when it comes to tackling some of the most pressing challenges faced by the planet. He and his editorial team aim to integrate more disparate areas of research over the coming months and years. They want to get research subfields such as population genetics, climate science, and evolution and conservation biology talking to each other more. They also want to bring conservation biology into much greater exposure, which will mean publishing more evidence-based research in the field. Goymer is also keen to increase the journal’s health-related content and build its portfolio of research in the applied health implications of areas such as antibiotics and cancer. Finally, in a bid to make more impact on some of the grand societal challenges, the Chief Editor wants Nature Ecology & Evolution to use its coverage and its community to narrow the gap between scientists and practitioners, and reduce evidence complacency.
“Our research should be embedded deep in the world-views of policymakers and public alike, not just as an optional add-on which can be rejected without significant consequences.” Patrick Goymer
Patrick Goymer joined Springer Nature in 2005 as an Assistant Editor at Nature Reviews Genetics and Nature Reviews Cancer. In 2008 he moved to Nature, where he served as Senior Editor covering ecology and evolution, before becoming Chief Editor of Nature Ecology & Evolution in 2016. He has handled primary manuscripts and review articles across the entire breadth of ecology and evolution, as well as advising and writing for other sections of Nature. Patrick completed his DPhil in experimental evolution in Paul Rainey’s lab at the University of Oxford, and did his postdoctoral work on evolutionary and ecological genetics in Linda Partridge’s lab at University College London in association with Charles Godfray’s lab at Imperial College London.
This article was written by Emma Warren-Jones, Director of Edible Content, from an interview with Patrick this year.