This week, the British Ecological Society are attending New Scientist Live to showcase Incredible Creatures and bring ecological research to a wider audience. Focused across four zones; jungle, water, nocturnal, and people and nature, we’re excited to share the value of ecology in tackling the biggest challenges faced by our natural world.

To celebrate this, we’ve brought together Why Ecology Matters; a selection of articles from across the BES journals that showcase why your ecological research matters on multiple levels and to a variety of people and interests. Michael Pocock introduces the collection.

Why-Ecology-Matters-Cover-mediumEcology is the study of the interactions of organisms – animals, plants, and the often-forgotten worlds of fungi, microbes and bacteria – with each other and with their environment. And ecology matters. It matters on so many different levels. Ecology matters because of the impact humans are having on the natural world – directly, through fishing, harvesting, changing land use, urbanisation; and indirectly, most notably through the effects of climate change. Ecology matters because the natural world provides many benefits for people to live healthily on our planet. And ecology matters because, well, the natural world matters in itself. Ecologists may sometimes sound awkward when they describe this ‘intrinsic value’, but increasingly they realise that this is a vital component of why ecology matters.

The science of ecology is the method for discovering how the world works. Sometimes what ecologists study, as demonstrated in the papers here, may seem obscure, but it all comes down to providing us with an understanding of the way the natural world works, and along the way the study often becomes utterly fascinating. Through this wok, ecologists develop solutions to some of the natural world’s critical threats. This is because, increasingly, ecological scientists are intrinsically concerned not simply with the natural world (and something ‘other’ to be studied) but with the interactions of people within the natural world: topics in this Virtual Issue include people’s health, nutrition, economic wellbeing, mental wellbeing and so on.

As well as being fascinating and important, this Virtual Issue shows that ecological science is innovative. Ecologists use and develop novel technological approaches to help answer questions that have otherwise been out of reach. And everyone can get involved, not just scientists. Ecology has pioneered the growth in citizen science, where people from all different walks of life can play a part in scientific research, whether for their own fascination or for the benefits they gain from the information they collect. There is much to be concerned about our planet, but ecology is also a science of optimism and hope. We hope that this collection of engaging, fascinating and important research – from studies at single sites, to studies across the globe – will inspire and fascinate you, demonstrating why ecology matters for all its different reasons.

All articles in the Why Ecology Matters Virtual Issue are free to read for a limited time here.

Interested in citizen science? Don’t miss the open call for papers to feature in an upcoming Special Feature on the topic across the BES journals.