Invited Speaker : Olga Ameixa
Title: How to sustainably use a natural capital in peril – the case of insects as food and feed
Olga Ameixa is a Ph.D. in Ecosystems Biology, University of South Bohemia, the Czech Republic. After completing her Ph.D., she worked at the Global Change Research Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences (CzechGlobe). Currently, she is an Assistant Researcher at the Department of Biology & CESAM of the University of Aveiro and an external collaborator of cE3c of the University of Azores (Portugal). Her research interests include insect ecology, biodiversity, their biocontrol potential as well as their biotechnological uses, developing research in the area of nature-based solutions such as, the production of insect meals for marine aquafeeds, being the PI of a project in this area. She is also the convenor of the IOBC/WPRS “Benefits and Risks of Exotic Biological Control Agents” working group.
Biodiversity underpins the functioning of ecosystems, which provide a wide range of ecosystem services, including the provision of food and feed and for this reason, the accelerated rate of species loss can compromise food security. In recent years, insects have made the headlines due to the call for attention on the global decline of bees and other pollinators – both natural and managed, particularly in North America and Europe. Besides pollination, insects play important roles in food security delivering ecological services like biological control or serving as food and feed due to their nutritional composition on protein, fat, minerals and vitamins. In comparison to conventional livestock, insects have higher feed conversion efficiencies, lower water and land requirements, and lower greenhouse gas emissions. However, they are currently one of the most threatened taxa, facing significant challenges mainly due to habitat loss and fragmentation, pollution, invasive species, climate change and overharvesting. In addition, since most insects consumed are currently collected in the wild, an increase in their consumption will lead to overexploitation of wild species. As research shows potential biotechnological uses of insects, simultaneously, ecological studies show their declines. Biodiversity loss and global food security are currently two major challenges of our time and finding synergies between can contribute to enhanced sustainable development.