Biodiversity rests on a vastly complex nexus of social, economic, cultural, and ecological dimensions that embrace huge scales in terms of space and time. The threat to biodiversity’s richness is global but many of its pressures and drivers are local, which means that potential solutions often require detailed local or regional knowledge.
This scientific and intellectual challenge is borne out by the wide range of research projects in the Commission’s last two Framework Programmes. Together FP5 and FP6 have devoted € 170 million to research regarding biodiversity and ecosystems.
Five major FP6 projects will be showcased during the upcoming 8th Conference of the Parties to the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) in March in Curitiba, Brazil. The projects on display will offer a cross-cut of EU-supported research results that support implementation of the CBD’s work programmes and action plans to combat the ongoing loss of biodiversity.
Diversity of biodiversity projects
The EU contribution for the major FP6 projects, which have a lifetime up to 5 years, is often more than € 10 million per project. One example is ALARM, which is assessing the large-scale environmental risks for biodiversity posed by climate change, biological invasions, pollinator loss, environmental chemicals and socio-economic pressure. Another is HERMES whose researchers are studying the biodiversity, structure, function and dynamics of ecosystems along Europe’s deep-ocean margin. The MARBEF network links 82 European marine institutes together and disseminates information among them regarding marine biodiversity and ecosystem function. ALTER-Net is building a long-term biodiversity, ecosystem and awareness research network from case studies across seven countries, while EDIT is integrating European taxonomic efforts to create a top-class European virtual centre of excellence in this field.
MARINE GENOMICS offers new investigative methods regarding the biology of marine organisms and a web-based interface to bio-informatics data management and data analysis tools. The EVOLTREE network ties together 14 countries, 32 partners, 37 laboratories and 204 researchers working in forest genomics, genetics and terrestrial ecosystems. One of its aims is to create a European platform in population genomics of forest trees.
FP5 and FP6 also supported many smaller Specific Targeted Projects and Co-ordination Activities in biodiversity. Information about most of these projects dealing with terrestrial and freshwater biodiversity can be found on the websites of BIOTA and FP5 marine projects.
It is imperative that the international community pull together in halting the globe’s declining biodiversity. The continuing loss will make it impossible to achieve sustainable growth, and will seriously compromise our ability to attain the UN’s Millennium Development Goals regarding poverty, hunger, human health and water quantity and quality. To remain competitive each economy must take care of its natural environment. Indeed, nine out of ten European citizens say we have a duty to protect nature even if this means limiting human progress. By firmly carrying biodiversity research into FP7, Europe can remain competitive in key sectors such as bio-computing, complexity theory and dynamics of emergent systems. Research will also maintain Europe’s capacity to buffer our life-support systems from unwanted change, thus safeguarding our economic and social futures.