Our planet shows striking gradients in the species richness of plants and animals, from high biodiversity in the tropics to low biodiversity in polar and high-mountain regions. Yet, the large-scale biogeographical distribution of many less conspicuous species groups (e.g., bacteria, plankton, insects) is still largely unknown. For example, it was recently shown in an analysis of 540 lakes across the United States, that phytoplankton communities show strong geographic variation in biodiversity, that could be explained by local environmental factors such as productivity, temperature, area, and water depth (Stomp et al. (2011), Ecology in press). This exemplifies the need for large data sets and advanced techniques to handle and analyze these data.
The UvA-research priority Global Ecology holds a key position to contribute to the further development of this international field of research. Members of the research priority Global Ecology have an excellent international reputation in studies of natural systems on both ecological and evolutionary timescales, resulting in groundbreaking research and many publications in high-impact journals like Nature, Science and PNAS. The research priority has in particular a leading position in the integration of theoretical, experimental and empirical studies on biodiversity and ecosystem dynamics, which is both nationally and internationally quite unique.