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About Biodiversity dynamics

What determines (species) diversity and how is it affected by human actions?

Biodiversity is an important property of nature, especially in the context of the change, destruction and disturbance of the environment of which we, humans, are part. Biodiversity has several functions and services ranging from providing us with food, maintaining/sustaining important biogeochemical cycles to educational and cultural values. Due to the alteration and destruction of habitat, the decline in species diversity proceeds at a rate that is considered unprecedented in geological history. This threatens our very own survival on the planet and should be one of our main concerns.

Global change is the large-scale impact of man on our world, caused by global climate change (GCC), land use cover change (LUCC), overexploitation, and large scale pollution/eutrophication of terrestrial and aquatic habitats. Thus, global change must not be taken as a synonym for global climate change alone. The Millennium Ecosystem Report and the IPCC-AR5 report showed a grim picture of the loss in virtually all ecosystems of our world. For example, most of the lowland forests have been converted to agricultural areas, while grazing, logging for timber, road and dam constructions, oil, gas, and mining prospecting provide further environmental threats. These factors greatly contribute to habitat loss and exacerbate soil erosion with hydrological implications that result in far-reaching consequences (e.g. loss of water source for residents and agricultural lands) at the regional, national, and global levels.

Aims of BD

3D model of trees

The Research Group “Biodiversity Dynamics” aims to contribute to the challenges of biodiversity loss and climate change by answering the question: what determines terrestrial species diversity and how is it affected by human actions? Specifically we focus on terrestrial forest systems, ecosystem services and will integrate data and functions at different scales from traits to networks to distributions.

In the Research Group “Biodiversity Dynamics” we are interested in the processes that generate and maintain diversity. We study this central topic from several angles and with different taxonomic groups using large amounts of collection data, interaction networks, predictive modelling, remote sensing and metabarcoding. Combining our data and expertise, we identify the most relevant variables shaping diversity patterns at different scales.

Photo 07 Jau river

We generate information on how land use change and climate change affect the populations and functioning of species and systems now and in the future. We provide crucial and yet unavailable baseline information on biodiversity, community composition, species’ niches and their distributions to better understand the factors that influence ecosystem dynamics and thus facilitate the conservation and sustainable use of natural habitats and agroforestry matrices.

The baseline knowledge we accumulate, coupled with experimental projects, can be applied to solve problems in agroforestry and land use strategies. Moreover, our research on how biological communities respond to climate change provides unique insights into how present-day ecosystems can transform when subjected to warming or changes in precipitation with profound implications for global nutrient and hydrological cycling. Our research is linked to international conservation efforts such as WWF, IUCN CBD, IPBES, South-East Asia Rainforest Reserve Program, International Tundra Experiment, Global Legume Diversity Assessment, as well as local efforts such as Fundación ProYungas, Osa Conservation, and the Corcovado Foundation.

We publish our results in journals that target our audience. This ranges from conservation journals, forestry journals to newspapers to ensure maximum impact of our findings.

Diversity of fungi in a one cm root segment

Collaborations of Biodiversity Dynamics

We collaborate in extensive international networks but also collaborate with our colleagues within Naturalis, such as Sector Collections, Systematics, Molecular Biodiversity, Character Evolution, “Natuur van Nederland”, and all others. The collections and evolutionary systematics are the foundation of our work and the data holders are our taxonomic experts (NBC, PGO). We collect field data ourselves and identify our material with other experts. Because patterns/models we produce are only as good as the input data, excellent curation and systematics are essential. With 37 million collections NBC has an important global role to play in this field.