What is the role of biodiversity for the functioning of ecosystems? How do natural or human-induced disturbances of a given ecosystem affect the complex network of interactions between species, soils and the cycling of water, carbon and nutrients? What are the consequences of such changes for ecosystem resilience, biodiversity, ecosystem services and carbon and nutrient cycles at a global scale? One of the major challenges for the future of our planet is how our natural environment can sustain the Earth’s biodiversity as well as secure our survival by providing food, water, resources and a healthy living environment.
The importance of this issue was emphasized once again by the recent United Nations conferences in Cancun (2010) and Nagoya (2010) on climate change and biodiversity loss, respectively. The interrelations between different levels of biological organization, temporal and spatial scales necessitate a research approach that is driven by hypotheses and combines theory development, laboratory experiments and field studies. Modern experimental facilities to study natural processes under controlled conditions and eScience infrastructure for real-time data collection and combining large data sets are needed. Sophisticated mathematical models and advanced data analysis techniques play a key role in relating the processes operating on different temporal and spatial scales with each other.
The research priority Global Ecology advocates this whole-system approach to the study of ecosystems. It covers a broad range of scientific disciplines, including theoretical, experimental and technological expertise, obtained through collaboration of the different research groups within the Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics together with their external partners. The theme is officially acknowledged as a research priority of the Faculty of Science.