IALE – the toast of Manchester

At Jonathan Porter’s initiative, ialeUK was awarded the great honour of hosting the IALE 2013 European Congress, an event that only happens once every four years.  Held in the vibrant city of Manchester, it successfully brought together almost 400 delegates from across the UK, Europe and further afield, all with an avid interest in landscape ecology, as a result of their involvement in research, policy or practice. This major international event examined how and why European landscapes are changing and how landscape ecology can help us to plan for the future at local to global scales. 

An inspiring welcoming address from Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council set the scene for the Congress, highlighting that landscape ecology can deliver very practical synergies between the needs of the environment, society and the economy. Richard Smithers (Chair, ialeUK), Teresa Pinto Correia (President, IALE Europe) and Felix Kienast (International President, IALE) then gave a Russian dolls’ selection of perspectives on landscape ecology. John Handley, Professor Emeritus at The University of Manchester, followed with a wide-ranging plenary lecture, which spanned a period from the end of the last Ice Age to the present and beyond, bringing the opening session to a close and leaving everyone raring to make the most of all the congress had on offer. 


The 26 symposia held across 4 days explored an incredible array of issues linked to the congress theme – Changing European Landscapes – from biocultural landscapes to freshwater ecosystems and from community-based planning to earth observation. Notably, the fast-evolving field of landscape genetics, a boon to landscape ecologists, celebrated its 10th anniversary, taking the opportunity to review current status and remaining challenges. Local projects sat alongside international research programmes; each symposium offering its own mix of traditional presentations, flash talks, question and answer sessions, debates and discussion with researchers, policymakers and practitioners all gaining from talking to existing contacts, new-found allies and ‘space aliens’ from other worlds with a mutual interest in all things landscape ecological. 


As always at ialeUK events, the fun never stopped coming, with organised events and more impromptu social gatherings well into the wee hours. All was washed down with many a glass of IALE, a real ale brewed specially for the occasion by Marble Beers and enjoyed by everyone!


Complementing the symposia, 11 fabulous field excursions, held mid-way through the congress, provided an opportunity to explore the Congress themes though the breathtaking scenery around Manchester: pulsating urban landscapes; internationally designated uplands; important coastal zones; and tranquil farmland. Experiences and lessons learnt from some of these excursions are explored in the following article. 


The closing plenary was held in Manchester Town Hall’s stunning Great Hall, described by Ruskin as “The most truly magnificent Gothic apartment in Europe”. Delegates were given the opportunity to question a panel of leading and up-and-coming researchers and practitioners about landscape ecology; problems, progress, priorities and plans. A lively debate ensued that covered many of the issues arising during the Congress and brought the event to an engaging close.


The Congress was amazing! Enormous thanks to the organisers, Countryscape, and particularly to Jonathan Porter for all his tireless hard work.