Interdisciplinary research key to safeguarding biodiversity, say experts
Interdisciplinary research, coordinated at the European level, is key if the EU is to achieve its goal of halting biodiversity loss by 2010, according to three new recommendations from the European Platform for Biodiversity Research Strategy (EPBRS). At a recent meeting in Leipzig, held under the auspices of the Germany presidency of the EU, the experts issued three sets of recommendations on the sustainably use of biodiversity. These focused on biodiversity in the wider countryside; biodiversity and ecosystem services - the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment framework in a European perspective; and European biodiversity research and the global perspective. A common theme in all three papers is the need to better understand the status of and trends in biodiversity, for example by developing standardised methods for monitoring and indicators and creating globally accessible, interoperable databases. More research is also needed into the drivers of biodiversity loss. 'Land and water use changes in the wider countryside [...] have been and still are the main drivers of biodiversity loss in Europe,' the experts write. With this in mind, they call for studies on the potential of agri-environmental schemes to make an impact on biodiversity. They also call for research into the interactions of land and water use changes with climate change effects and adaptation strategies, with a view to developing policy options and actions that will help to conserve biodiversity. At the global level, research priorities identified include the need to evaluate the effects of European policies as well as European production and consumption patterns, transport, trade and tourism on biodiversity and ecosystem services in other parts of the world. There is also 'an urgent need to build and maintain communication and research capacity and infrastructure in developing countries,' the experts state. In their recommendations on biodiversity and ecosystem services, the experts highlight the need to improve our understanding of how biodiversity contributes to ecosystem services such as nutrient cycling, fresh water, climate regulation and food as well as cultural ecosystem services such as education and recreation. Work is also needed to improve the methodologies used to value biodiversity and ecosystem services, and strategies for managing and safeguarding biodiversity. The EPBRS brings together scientists and policy-makers to 'ensure that research contributes to halting the loss of biodiversity by 2010'. It meets twice a year under the EU presidencies. The next meeting will be held in Portugal in November.